When comics, as we conventionally think of them, first debuted in newspapers, they were designed as a way to sell more papers. You could read about the news of the day, catch up on the local gossip, and chuckle at the antics of Mickey Dugan. It was all part of the package that is/was newspapers. You didn’t buy the paper specifically for the latest Blondie any more than you bought it for article about local zoning laws on page B-7, but you bought the paper for the collection of everything that was in it.
Now, with the inherent link-ability of web pages, there’s less of a need to focus on a single source for information. You might read one article on CNN.com, another on FoxNews.com, and a third on AlJazeera.com before heading over to ESPN.com for sports scores. Sites are largely ad-supported, so you as a reader don’t need to pay for reading any of the articles, unlike newspapers which are only partially ad-supported and still require the reader to pay for the privledge of reading it. So it’s not only cheaper but more effective to hop around to different sites in order to find the articles that cover the topics you’re most interested in.
Because of that, articles have changed how they’re being written. There’s a greater emphasis on generating intriguing headline copy, and skewing the language of the articles to be more conducive to search engine algorithms. Publishers still want to attract as many views as possible, and they’ve largely been doing that via sensationalism.
That’s essentially what some sites use as their entire structure. Cracked.com, for example, features list-based articles with headlines like “5 Terrifying Secrets of Hospital Emergency Rooms” and “4 Bullshit Tech Products You’ll Hate in 2015.” They’ve done that enough now that people begin to know what to expect from a Cracked article, and some people head over to the site regularly on their own for precisely that. That world-view that Cracked has editorially curated. Successfully, I might add.
So my question is: why couldn’t a webcomic be incoporated into a site like that? Not just the syndication of some comic someone is already producing, but an original hosted webcomic that also speaks to the same world-view held by the site already.
Bandai Namco Games did try reviving interest in many of their long-dormant video game properties a couple years ago by hosting a number of commissioned webcomics loosely based on those properties. That lasted about two years; it’s unclear why those were canceled though. Emerald City Comicon has also hosted original webcomics to draw people to their site in between convention updates.
But I wonder why more sites don’t try this? They’re (usually) paying the people who write their articles, after all; wouldn’t a visually interesting content component like a webcomic also be worth paying for? In the case of something like Cracked.com, it seems almost ironic that they don’t have comics, given that it started life in 1958 trying to emulate Mad Magazine. Maybe that will be the next wave of webcomics we see cropping up—the next attempt at catching the fleeting attention of online viewers!