Between my general interest, this column, and the Comics Alternative webcomics podcast I co-host, I’m always on the look-out for neat webcomics. When I first started getting into webcomics, I largely relied on advertising found on other webcomic site to discover new ones. The community was still fairly close-knit, and a lot of people promoted themselves on other sites—both through more traditional paid advertising and also through webrings and collectives. (And yes, I fully realize that I’m dating myself by citing webrings.)

Once I discovered RSS feeds, though, I found that I rarely visited the actual webcomic sites any longer. I would simply drop a comic’s feed into my feed reader, and I could see all my webcomics through a single location. Over the years, I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking at different feed readers and web portals to find a combination that suited my reading habits. (For the record, I’ve been using NetVibes and The Old Reader for the past few years.) All of which worked once I had found a webcomic I wanted to follow, but finding new webcomics remained somewhat challenging.

Until yesterday.

I got an email from The Older Reader that simply said, “HERE’S SOME FEEDS WE THINK YOU’LL LOVE!” followed by a list of ten webcomics. Clicking on the link to any one called up the feed within your Old Reader account, so you could see exactly what it looked like and then simply hit “Subscribe.”

Clearly, they looked at how most of the feeds I have currently loaded are categorized and then generated an email with similarly tagged feeds. Probably pulled from what other users are subscribing to. I suspect that the folks at Old Reader don’t know diddly about webcomics. I suspect that no employee there saw the list I was sent at any point. The content was generated based on some algorithm, with no real conscious thought towards actual curation. If I had to guess, I’d wager that the ten titles I was sent were the top ten feeds by number of subscribers that I wasn’t already subscribing to that also matched (or came close to matching) the meta data associated with my existing feeds. And it’s probably a lot more complex to program something like that than write what I just did!

In any event, I now have my feed reader promoting work back to me, based on my existing preferences. I might not have any special interest in the comics they sent… but I might! And that they’re doing it without any particular concern or focus on webcomics themselves, which is the brilliant part. That means that they don’t need to become experts in webcomics (or any other field) in order to make suggestions to me. And I don’t have to spend as much time hunting down new webcomics. As I said, I might not like any of the comics they recommend, but I might!

About The Author

Senior Editor, Comics & Lifestyle

Sean Kleefeld is an independent researcher whose work has been used by the likes of Marvel Entertainment, Titan Books and 20th Century Fox. He writes the ongoing “Incidental Iconography” column for The Jack Kirby Collector and had weekly “Kleefeld on Webcomics” and "Kleefeld's Fanthropology" columns for MTV Geek. He’s also contributed to Alter Ego, Back Issue and Comic Book Resources. Kleefeld’s 2009 book, Comic Book Fanthropology, addresses the questions of who and what comic fans are. He blogs daily at