One of the problems webcomics have these days—and this is a brilliant problem to have—is that there are so many of them, it actually becomes hard to find ones that you really like. There’s just so much out there vying for your attention that it becomes a kind of white noise that you don’t even pay attention to. This actually isn’t really a new problem, either; I can recall discussions about this very issue a full decade ago! And since then, to no surprise, more and more webcomics have debuted as more and more people prove it as a viable way to make a living.
So how does one go about finding new comics? By their very nature, there’s no real way to provide a clearing house for all of them in the way that Diamond is for pamphlet comics. And given the relative lack of coverage on comics and pop culture sites, there’s little in the way of reviews or even announcements.
When smart phones started coming out (and as various manufacturers tried to catch up with feature phones) there were a number of apps that were released that showcased webcomics. Users could view any number of comics, and subscribe to their favorites so they wouldn’t miss any installments. The problem that many of these apps faced, however, was that they were being developed wholly independently of the cartoonists. Developers would use scraping software to pull in the latest episodes without the consent of the webcomikers. This was a problem because many webcomics rely on advertising revenue from their sites; but if someone is removing the comics from the context of the original sites, there’s no means for the reader to even see those ads. This also decreases traffic to the site, and advertisers are less willing to pay for space there. Many early apps were shut down because of this process.
More recently, I’ve noticed an uptick in webcomic apps again. These largely seem to be with the consent of the cartoonists represented, and many even stem from the webcomikers even requesting to be included. Although I don’t doubt there are still unscrupulous developers out there, they mostly appear to have learned the lessons of their predecessors.
The apps take a variety of forms, of course, but they often share the commonality of curation. Where the early apps just presented the reader with a slew of titles to choose from, the current crop have put more of a focus on presenting ones that a reader might be more inclined to enjoy. Some do that curation in a more traditional sense, using editors to manually select which comics are highlighted on any given day, while others use a user-driven ratings system to call out especially popular and well-received strips.
But that common thread of presenting the user with a more finite list to choose from is a direct result of readers feeling overwhelmed with the amount of choices they have when it comes to webcomics. They’re looking for others to at least narrow the list down from “all webcomics anywhere” to “webcomics that are good and might interest me.” I don’t know that there’s a standout app that’s generally considered THE webcomics app to use, so for now that still leaves readers with the decision of which app(s) to download. But that’s at least a smaller list to work from than “all webcomics.”