ICv2 had a chance to sit down with Dario Di Zanni of Disney DigiComics at New York Comic Con to talk about the origins and status of Disney DigiComics and plans for future digital comics initiatives from Disney.  Di Zanni is the Senior Manager, Marketing and Business Development, New Media, for Disney Publishing Worldwide (based in Milan Italy), and was instrumental in the founding of Disney DigiComics. 


In Part 2 of this two part interview, we talk about Disney’s navigation between download-to-own, subscription access Websites, subs and bundles; and timing of releases.  In Part 1, we talked about the origins of Disney DigiComics and the rationale behind it.  We also talked to Di Zanni about Disney’s “digital first” strategy for comics tied to its massive new storyline, Epic Mickey, which is launching in a Wii game from Disney Interactive this fall.   


About a year ago, a subscription site launched in the States for Disney children’s books (see “Disney Makes Children’s Books Available Online”).  Is there any common material there?  What’s your relationship with the subscription site, and are there any plans for subscription sites for comics?

This is one of the next steps.  This is a separate project which was launched around the same time as DigiComics last October.  It’s a big Website that is basically a library of Disney titles on a subscription model; it doesn’t do comics at the moment. 


It was a project that was meant to have a totally different look and feel.  It was much more interactive:  kids could do a lot of different things with those titles like interacting, playing games.  There were social networking features.  There were activities in the different groups. 


But of course now we can see there are two different movements of technology.  One goes to convergence and the other goes to being much more spread out into different devices, different operating systems that will emerge in the market. 


One thing is for sure—content will never change.  Content can be the same on the different platforms, or we can have different content for each different platform.   Something that we can definitely do is to integrate our product or position to the consumers to make it more compelling, to make the offer broader since we can work with so many titles, both books and magazines.


Will comics go into the existing subscription Website or will there be a separate comic subscription Website?

We are looking at different ways of integrating the digital books and Disney DigiComics.  We are trying to evaluate different opportunities to keep them separated or combine them depending...  It’s a matter of user profile.  It is also a matter of technology, of course. 


Disney DigiComics was born as a mobile project, something that people could carry.  Parents could give their iPods or iPhones to their children.  Disney Digital Books was conceived much more as a library, something that you can do sitting in front of your computer.  You need to interact with your computer a lot. 


We are trying to experiment at the two very ends of the continuum of technology, mobility and proximity we can call it:  something that you can always bring yourself and something you need to be there to do it.  We are trying to understand where the borderline is between the two. 


There are also transitional implications with this.  In the last month we have been through a big reorganization at Disney Publishing which has been integrating the creative groups of books and magazines.  It’s definitely something we can now think about much more holistically so we don’t have to think anymore about what is a book, what is a comic.  At the end, we’re talking about content.  That’s what matters.


How many titles or pages do you have available now?

In DigiComics we have 220 stories already available on our marketplace.


Is that about 10% of the available pages?

Less.  Consider one average story we publish on DigiComics has 25 pages so we are really talking about five thousand pages which is 10%, but those 50,000 pages don’t take into account the new pages we publish every year.  So it’s just the backlog.


Are you selling those stories only in one form or are you also selling them in subscriptions and bundles?

We are starting to sell them in bundles, but we have launched in all the English-speaking countries, and in Italy, and there is a huge difference between the two areas.  In Italy, we have a long established business of weekly magazines.  People have that benchmark of prices. 


In the U.S., except in the last three years when Boom has started publishing what we call standard characters (Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck comics) in the US, and in the UK, we have not had any standard character comics in decades.  People do not have that kind of benchmark of a traditional product in terms of pricing.  They have other benchmarks, the competition, for which you spend $2.99 or $3.99 for each comic.  That means when you spend $1.99 for one story you don’t feel like it’s that much, or at $.99, you feel even better.  But in Italy there is this benchmark so we have to face it. 


We started getting great compliments from US and UK readers saying, ‘Oh wow that’s cheap,’ and reactions from Italian consumers that said, ‘Wow, that’s expensive.’  We have to face this difference.  It was in our mind to start giving bundles and some form of subscriptions to the different users.  We are also trying to understand whether offering a subscription to just the comic stories makes sense, or if it rather makes sense to give subscriptions to the magazines, which also include editorial pages and other stuff.  We are looking at very different directions.


So there are no subscriptions yet, but there are some bundles?



So for example, can you buy a Wizards of Mickey bundle with all the stories?

Yes.  In the new player that is going to release in the next weeks there will be an opportunity to buy bundles around characters, genres, specific categories, or sagas like Wizards of Mickey or Double Duck.


In terms of types of content, are you just doing the standard characters or are you doing the movie stuff?

We are doing the movie stuff.  The movie graphic novels are already available on Sony Playstation Portable Digital Comics Marketplace.  They will also become available on the iPod and iPhones, iOS devices.  There will be this major release of the new player that will be within the next weeks.  It will carry a lot of different new features:  a new reading experience, a new buying experience, the bundles, potentially subscriptions.  We are looking at different ways to integrate physical and printed products as well within the digital product.


How current is the stuff that you’re releasing through DigiComics?  Are you doing any day and date releases or are they backlist?

Primarily backlist but not just old stuff.  Stories we have released on DigiComics range from early 2000 to 2008.  We keep updating those stories with fresh stories, newly published. 


We are starting to experiment with more than the day and date approach, which is that we  want to release certain stories in digital first and then as a printed product which is going to happen for example on Epic Mickey.


Click here for Part 1.


Click here for the story on Epic Mickey.