ICv2 spoke to DC Comics Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing, and Business Development John Rood and Senior Vice President of Sales Bob Wayne about the recently released October sales numbers on the New 52 (see “DC Crushes Marvel” and “New 52 #2s Down Only 6%”). In Part 1 of this two part interview, we talk about the over-all sales trends, digital sales, and DC’s deal on the Kindle Fire (see “Kindle Launches Graphic Novel Price War”). In Part 2, we talk about DC’s graphic novel strategy for the New 52, the characteristics of the consumers that are buying the New 52, and why there seems to be so little speculation on the relaunch books.
As a starting point, can you give us your overall comments or reflections on October’s numbers?
John Rood: Yes, they’ve told us we’ve won something. I’ve got room on the shelf for a prize, but it hasn’t arrived yet. We’re excited to see the reports from Diamond that we’ve won the month in dollar share and in unit share. I consider that ironic as hell, since we don’t price our comics to win any dollar share battles, and we don’t pump out a lot of inventory to win any unit share battles. So the fact that this is happening accidentally just speaks to the readership of the New 52, and the support from our retailers, which we’re so appreciative of.
The dollar share spread went up a lot between September and October.
Rood: I tell you, we should continue to ignore this; if it trends in this direction we’ll be pleased.
It also looked like the growth compared to the previous year was at least as good or accelerated compared to September; what’s your overall evaluation of how the sales on the titles and the subsequent issues are holding up, not only in October, but looking ahead to the numbers you’ll see in November and December?
Wayne: We’re very pleased with how well the numbers are holding up (they are holding up better than our expectations going into the New 52); we’re really happy with the level of reader and retailer support that we’ve had; and that so many of the titles seem to be finding a substantial audience (and if each of them find their own advocates and fans externally and internally). It’s very heartening to see this level of support. You know I’ve been doing this for awhile, and having reprints of nearly every one of our books from the New 52 campaign, and having the second issues and the first issue reprints and reorders all chart, is just an extraordinary thing. I would call it unprecedented.
When we talked a couple of months ago you didn’t have any information yet from other channels. Are you seeing any sell-through numbers yet?
bob Wayne: The main thing that we’re seeing from the newsstand side on these titles is that their sell-through is up. It looks like on the higher end titles there was some channel migration to newsstand if people were frustrated and couldn’t find it at the comic shops they were trying, but we kind of have a pin in that data because we’re going to wait and see if my anecdotal analysis of it turns out to be correct. And because the return period for the newsstand has such a long tail to it we probably won’t be able to have a clear focus on it until probably around the time of the ComicsPro meeting, which will be around the same time we will be doing an in-depth presentation to retailers on the Nielsen data that we get from the various surveys of the readers and the surveys of the retailer base itself.
How about digital? Any new trends there since the last time we talked?
Rood: It’s the absence of trend that is the most notable. The numbers are holding and there’s no notable top on a title that’s a digital darling like I had guessed might happen. The ones that you might imagine, iconic characters like Batman and Superman and Green Lantern, or iconic publishing brands like Action and Detective, and the over-indexing physical darlings like Animal Man all have a higher than limelight average digital share of overall business, but the numbers are holding by title, and sales are holding across the line digitally. It’s good news, but it’s not anything notable.
You haven’t released digital sales on any of the New 52 books. What is the reason that you don’t release those numbers?
Rood: I want us to feel like we’re partnering with retailers and showing them that the audience has become additive. This is not a replacement strategy like any other print medium, which is great. I don’t want to get granular, because I don’t think that does anybody any good.
We’re going to give the retailers a lot of detail on scale and share that’s drawn from the Nielsen/NRG survey we did. We can talk to them about ballpark in a way that would help them decide whether or not to do a digital storefront. Or whether or not to order up on a combo pack. If it helps them do their business better we’re going to try to share that with them.
Any comment on the deal with Amazon for the Kindle Fire?
Rood: Yes. We’re excited about their device. Actually more excited about the ecosystem that’s beyond the device, but they are in a device war right now. We like the offer; it’s exclusive like many offers in entertainment. But it’s not exclusionary and it’s not ad infinitum. We are partners with Barnes & Noble; we’re in talks with Barnes & Noble; we want to make news with Barnes & Noble. And we wish them every success on their upcoming launch too.
What is the term of the Amazon exclusive?
Rood: 100 titles, that’s all I know.
The term, how long it lasts, can you talk about that?
Rood: No, I’m not going to disclose that.
Did you know that they were going to sell Watchmen at $9.99 when you did the deal?
Rood: I’m not going to discuss terms on that either. We’re very pleased with the offer that we have so far with Amazon, but we don’t think that’s the only partner that we’ll be doing deals with.
Click here for Part 2 of the interview.
John Rood and Bob Wayne
November 11 2011 @ 2:15 am CT