Every person is essentially the center of their own universe. The protagonist of their own story. Pick your metaphor. You know what’s most important to you, and you know what you’ve done and are doing. (At least most of the time!) And when you chat with friends later, you might tell them about what’s going on in your life. “I just got a new job!” “I fell down the stairs and broke my leg!” “I saw my favorite band perform last night!” “My partner and I broke up!”
A lot of these discussions have moved to social media now. Someone changes the status on LinkedIn, or Tweets about the death of a beloved animal, or Instagrams a picture of their new engagement ring. The benefit of this, of course, is that you can inform a lot of people about what’s going on in your life—even the more mundane events like what’s for lunch—without having to reach out to each person individually.
But not everybody sees everything you post, and you inevitably have conversations later about some of those same life events because your friend’s phone battery had died that day and they missed your post. Or maybe their feed was riddled with other updates and they just plain missed yours. I think most of us who spend much time on social media are somewhat used to that by now. That even your close friends and relatives don’t see everything you post online.
But I bring all that up because the same idea holds true for webcomics.
Even though someone subscribes to a comics’ feed, or follows the creator on social media, or wrote some script to update the background of their phone to the latest comic every day, that doesn’t mean they see everything the creator posts. Particularly when it comes to anything ancillary to the comic itself, like commentary or announcements.
Which means two things. First, it’s typically safer to assume that any given reader is coming to the material for the first time. That’s a generally good idea anyway, since readers can find themselves dropped into the middle of everything from some random link they followed, but it’s also important for readers who normally follow things but may have inadvertently missed several updates. Every single thing doesn’t need to be spelled out, but the reader needs enough to follow along.
The second thing is to assume that no one reads anything but the comic itself. Tweets, blog posts, additional site pages, etc. are all easily glossed over. And while most of the time that material doesn’t directly impact the reading of the strip itself—announcing a new colorist, for example, or expanding on the philosophy behind a character’s action—something really significant like changing the site’s domain name or ending the strip entirely should be mentioned repeatedly and in as many venues as possible. Including the strip itself (perhaps as just an additional note in the panel gutters to check the site for important news).
It might seem redundant or even silly, but remember: your best friends, your social media butterfly co-workers, even your spouse and your parents don’t see every single thing you post, so why would you assume your readers do?