Who Reads The Watchmen?: the Nielsen/ DC Customer Survey
At the time that DC’s brand-relaunching “The New 52″ (in which all their titles were restarted, some were added, and many were given new creative teams) hit stores, one of the bits of auxiliary information surrounding the event was that DC Comics was going to be working with the AC Nielsen Company (yep, that Nielsen) to come up with a comprehensive look at DC’s readership in general, and that same readership’s response to the New 52 event specifically. The survery consisted of over six thousand responses across various sources, from in-store surveys to social media to email. And now, the results are in.
DC Comics originally teased some of the info gathered from these surveys back in February, when they posted some summary information on their blog, The Source. There were some interesting things to glean from the post. ”Avid Fans purchased up to 20 titles out of the 52 titles” and “The survey indicates that 5% of those polled identified themselves as first-time, new readers” were both red meat chunks of information to me, for reasons we’ll get to.
That said, there were many, myself included, who wanted to see something far closer to the raw data. What were these people buying, who were they, and how excited were they? A rising tide raises all ships, as the saying goes, but a sinking tide also lowers all boats, as the saying should go, and in a lot of ways this survey is a look at the habits and health of the comic industry in general.
Nielsen organized these results and sent them off to both comic book retailers and media and news outlets. (The information used and cited in this article comes from the Newsarama version of the report.)
I really recommend heading over to Newsarama (or another media site, or your local retailer) and checking out the results in full. There’s a lot to parse through, but I think it really does give an interesting glimpse into the buying habits, confidence and growth of the comic industry. Here’s some of the bits that I find to have the most important takeaway in all this:
“It’s no surprise that most N52 [New 52] buyers are males”
This is obviously a truism in comics, but to have it so bluntly stated was still jarring. The tone of resignation is a bit disheartening; as though it was a law of nature that women (and girls) don’t read comics.
“N52 buyers are predominantly aged 25-44″
Under this pretty dry heading we find a dispersal graph of the age ranges of comic buyers. I would have guessed that a massive percentage of comic buyers schewed older (25-44 seems about right), but I was shocked by the atrophying numbers for young readers. Less than five percent of all comic readers polled were teenagers. Five percent. Keep in mind too that these aren’t even readers who, historically, would be considered young for comics. Teenagers! Formerly the bread-and-butter of comic readership, now a paltry five percent. Or less.
“Roughly 20 titles have 50%+ readers that are new to buying comics based on this character.”
Some good news here: the buzz around New 52 got people to step out of their comfort zones and try books that they don’t normally buy. In particular, I liked that formerly great books (recently or in years past) like OMAC, Static Shock, and Resurrection Man were all given a look by the comic public. This shows you that you can get readers to try something new, if there’s care and attention paid.
“What is the digital landscape?”
I believe that one of the results of New 52 that’s going to have the longest-lasting implication is DC’s implementation of Day-And-Digital across its entire line. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, day-and-digital refers to the concurrent release date of an issue in stores and digitally. This element of N52 slipped under the radar a bit, but I think that it’s a big deal and I think it’s a big deal to DC Comics.
The Nielsen report that’s referenced in the above title has a lot of information about comic buyers’ habits when it comes to digital comics, and that’s a good thing. The section doesn’t actually hold anything that’s too surprising for anyone that follows digital comics at all. Digital sales are growing, but they’re not as big as print. A lot of readers go back and forth on digital and print. And most readers read their digital comics on tablets. Oh, and they’ll be buying more and more of those in the coming years. What’s actually important is that DC is asking these questions, and trying to anticipate how we’ll be reading our comics, or how we’ll want to be reading our comics, in the near future. Being that active can maybe help turn around that anemic five percent teenage readership.
So, now that I’ve run off at the mouth a bit, what bits jumped out at you?