Last week in light of some comments by Tom Brevoort of Marvel regarding the failure of female led books, there was a flurry of posts on the topic from the Beat, the Mary Sue, and in particular this one by Alyssa Rosenberg in Think Progress.
Rosenberg brought up a topic I’ve discussed in the past - the reluctance of the big two to actually market to women. I did a series of posts last year about some suggestions to get more female readers. I got some good feedback on the posts including a number of industry folks (unofficially, of course).
In her post Alyssa makes some excellent points.
It’s not as if women have some sort of mysterious homing pigeon hormones that allow us to swarm the best in lady culture when it’s published even if no one lets us know about it. I’d be genuinely curious to know if Marvel and DC have done substantial advertising campaigns in women’s magazines, or on female-oriented television shows when they’re rolling out new storylines or new artists on comics with female characters? Or if they’ve pitched their comics characters as cover girls or interview subjects a la Marge Simpson’s Playboy spread?
You can’t expect women to go into comic book stores if they have no idea that anything’s there for them. You can’t expect them to swing by comics and graphic novels sections in physical or online bookstores if they have no conception that there are characters they should get excited about. If you really want a female audience, go after it.
I responded to Alyssa’s post with some of my thoughts and in light of a discovery I made this morning I am going to post them here.
Here’s some telling information, when DC was parsing out the exclusives for their new 52, a task that falls under the less expensive budget of PR rather than advertising, did they offer up previews to any female focused media outlets? They obviously had a segmented strategy offering exclusive previews to publications Maxim, Ebony and Out magazine but they skipped the female demographic. But did they target the many sites that women clearly frequent? Did they target the many sites that female geeks/comic readers frequent? No, they didn’t. Even with them explicitly stating in their publicity for “Supergirl” they wanted to focus on the female YA audience that is consuming “Hunger Games” they still chose to give that story to USA Today. It baffling to me when Oprah.com one of the broadest female-focused outlets proactively reache s out to my site which is focused on girls and comics (Girls Love Superheroes) to feature content and yet DC didn’t pitch Batgirl, Supergirl, Batwoman or Birds of Prey to a site like Jezebel, Marie Clare or to a site catering to the female geek like the Mary Sue or Geek Mom (which writes about comics all the time and yet their male counterpart Geek Dad was given two previews by DC). My question is simply “why?” Why would something as easy as giving a preview to an outlet which has the potential of providing incremental readership be ignored? The female led mini-series starring Huntress, featuring some of the least exploitative art I’ve ever seen in superhero comics and and an easy to follow story with a strong female protagonist, is selling better than many of the new 52 (including one of their female-f
ocusedled books Voodoo which was given a huge PR push). But the “exclusive” preview for the latest issue wasn’t given to any of the outlets I’ve mentioned, instead the “exclusive” was posted to DC’s own site.
Missed opportunities all around.
So what did I find this morning? About an hour ago, I went looking for the preview of Batwoman as I knew it would probably be out today given its publication tomorrow. And to my surprise I found the preview of the book had already been published on Friday on iFanboy. I like iFanboy site but it’s not a site I spend a lot of time on. But more importantly this never hit my radar and realize I have searches on this stuff and Google alerts specifically on Batwoman.
Again, this isn’t to rank on iFanboy. This is about my point above - why isn’t this preview going to one of the sites that is focused on female readers? The book is doing is in the top 20 with the base audience (and selling 61K copies last month) so why not try and build the audience outside the base? Why not simply offer the preview Jezebel or Geek Mom or Mary Sue or anywhere site that isn’t focused on the same people that are marketed to over and over and over again?
Remember how they said they wanted to target that YA/Hunger Games audience with Supergirl? Then start going to where those readers are.
This isn’t direct marketing or paid placement advertising. This is PR which is infinitely less expensive. I’m sure that all it would take is an email and follow-up call by an account rep who is billing about $200 an hour. And it’s not like DC doesn’t have a good PR team, they do having brought on a talented firm earlier this year. Of course, even that may be too much money when you read things like this from CNN that implies going after female readers is “dangerous.” I’ll just roll my eyes and put on my Red Sox baseball hat and Patriots gloves.
The sales from the new 52 are already starting to shake out a bit. Several of the titles shipped around the 21K sales point the drove cancellation in the old DCU. Extending the marketing even slightly to women might be a good thing even though we know they are not the target audience because it could bring in incremental readers.
I know I’m a broken record on this issue. But that’s what blogs are for!