At the ComicsPro meeting in Dallas today DC Comics presented the results of an extensive survey of customers who purchased “New 52” titles during the first weeks of what was the comic industry phenomenon of 2011.  Among the key findings of the survey was the fact the “New 52” titles appealed primarily to avid comic book fans, who represented 70% of the survey’s respondents and lapsed readers (more than 25% of in-store consumers were lapsed readers), while 5% were new to comics. Other key findings include the fact that under 2% of the respondents were under 18 (which demonstrates that comics really aren’t just for kids anymore and takes some of the sting out of the attacks on the “New 52” books for their more mature content, see “TV Report Targets DC Comics”), that 93% of the respondents were male, and that more than 50% of the survey respondents had annual incomes under $60,000. DC’s Executive Vice President of Sales, Marketing and Business Development John Rood told ICv2 that he thinks the survey data shows that digital sales for the “New 52” titles, which were released simultaneously on digital and paper are additive.  

The three-pronged survey, which was conducted in conjunction with A.C. Nielsen, was conducted from September 26th to October 7th of 2011.  This survey was targeted specifically to customers who purchased “New 52” titles.  Part of the survey was conducted in comic book shops (167 completed surveys) with customers who had bought “New 52” books.  A second larger group completed an online survey that according to Rood “was solicited in-store, but then spread widely once the URL for the survey was known.”  This group yielded 5,336 completed surveys.  The third group of respondents consisted of consumers who had purchased “New 52” titles in digital form through comiXology or the DC apps, and it yielded 626 completed surveys.  Rood feels that the survey has established a “baseline” and that subsequent surveys, which DC is planning to conduct, will demonstrate trends as the market changes when compared with this pioneering effort.
While the survey did not specifically ask digital first customers if they then went on to purchase print comics, or conversely question print customers about purchasing digital versions once they became available “day and date,” Rood told ICv2 that sales trends indicate that digital sales are additive: “What makes us say digital is ‘additive’ is what we have seen in sales results since the months during which the survey was taken.  The digital sales as a percentage of “New 52” titles have not varied from the first month.  The percentage going to digital comics has remained the same, which indicates that digital is not gaining a larger share at the expense of print.”
Interestingly the survey did indicate that 57% of the digital readers did read print comics, while just 16% of the print readers had purchased or read digital comics. Also of interest are the top reasons that readers preferred one format or the other.  Digital readers preferred reading comics digitally because they provided immediate access (which could mean that many of these readers don’t have access to a convenient comic shop), and they also like the convenience and easy storage and portability of digital comics.  Print readers listed collectibility as the primary reason they bought physical copies, but they also expressed a dislike of reading comics onscreen.  Rood told ICv2 that the redemption of the digital codes in DC’s digital combo packs has been “astonishingly low,” a fact he attributed to the purchasers of those books being primarily interested in collecting a different edition of the material they like.
Among the most interesting results of the survey were the basic demographics of the respondents who were overwhelmingly male (93%).  The age of the respondents varied across the 3 survey groups as follows:
13-17               1%-2%
18-24               14%-22%
25-34               37%-42%
35-44               27%-35%
45-54               7%-11%
55+                  2%
One counter-intuitive fact that Rood noted to ICv2 was the fact that 48% of those digital buyers who responded were over 35, while only 35% of those who responded from the other two in-store portions of the survey were over 35.
Rood also told ICv2 that the income data from the survey, which indicated that 50% of the in-store “New 52” customers had incomes under $60,000 per year, “validated DC’s attempt to hold the price point for most comics to $2.99.”