I caught part of an online discussion recently where folks were bemoaning the lack of manga coverage on the larger comic news sites. Not only were they disappointed in not seeing more, but they also felt as if coverage had actually decreased in recent years. One individual chimed in to say that they weren’t imagining things, and that coverage had actually dwindled; she had confirmed this by flatly asking some of the site editors, who replied that they got compartively little traffic on their manga articles relative to anything else. Less traffic means fewer eyeballs, fewer eyeballs means less advertising revenue. Consequently, you get pieces about how Chris Evans visited a hospital dressed as Captain America, and manga only comes up when One Piece sets a world record in sales.
Although it wasn’t mentioned in the conversation, much the same could likely be said about webcomics. The coverage you might find on any given site is spotty at best, and still tends to be centered around the print world. Noelle Stevenson got effectively no coverage about Nimona; it was really only mentioned as an afterthought when someone was talking about Lumberjanes. Well, until Nimona got picked up by HarperCollins for print and 20th Century Fox for a movie.
Even looking at less commercially successful creators, they tend to only get mentioned when there’s some connection to the print world. Either it’s Terry Moore bringing his long-running Strangers in Paradise online, or perennial-go-to-example-of-a-successful-webcomiker Kate Beaton working on a new picture book, or some other creator’s Kickstarter to print their webcomic did phenomenally well. The news actually about webcomics is minimal.
Five or more years ago, I would have said (and I’m pretty sure I did actually say at the time) the problem was in the format simply being too new as a financially viable option for creators for most people to look at as more than a hobby. And while it’s still incredibly difficult to sustain a living making webcomics, it is becoming increasingly feasible. There are any number of creators for whom it is a primary source of income, whether that’s through advertising on their own site or a Patreon campaign or original art sales or something else. Their livelihood is comics. So claiming that it’s just some little hobbyist endeavor is no longer realistic.
I’m left to assume that, like manga, big sites simply do not see webcomics coverage as financially viable. The arguement made in favor of manga in that discussion I saw was that a news site cultivates its audience. If they only provide minimal manga coverage, manga fans won’t bother with it.
There’s an old adage that you have to spend money to make money. It means that you have to put forth some level of investment yourself before you’ll see anything in return for it. This holds for coverage as well. If you don’t put forth the effort to really cover webcomics, you’re not going to see a lot of traffic for it. If you instead focus your coverage on Marvel, DC, and Image, your audience is going to self-select themselves to match. You can’t expect to recoup anything when you haven’t put forth anything to recoup in the first place!