Five things make a post, or so they say. This is a bit over 5.
1. Old news: Realms of Fantasy, one of the premier markets for short speculative fiction, died and is dead.
2. Extremely interesting: Jeph Jacques, of Questionable Content fame, rants about misconceptions on the economics of webcomics, e.g., they not only exist and have been in practice for a while, but have proven to work better than print, and merchandising is not evil. ((Really, you must read the whole thing. And the comments.))
3. From the comments of #2: people (a) like to buy merchandise associated with a story they feel involved with, (b) it’s not just because of the pretty art (indeed, if it was just pretty it wouldn’t motivate most of the buys), and this is even though (c) story archives are free, and (d) it’s not just comics, but also just the written word, and (e) Cafepress and Zazzle exist for good reasons.
4. Where’s the Realms of Fantasy merchandise? T-shirts and so on. If there’s one fandom that is obsessive enough to buy associated merchandise when they feel involved in a story, it’s Fantasy/SF geeks. By far. I mean, Klingon robbery. Really.
5. Do people only get involved enough where serial stories are concerned (which is most webcomics and the stories on the web that do make money through merchandising)? “Daily gag” comics also merchandise well, however, although the tie throughout every strip in that case is still the single artist and his/her style. Would people care as much about anthology works—which is basically what Realms of Fantasy, Asimov’s, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, and many, many more, are—enough to buy merchandise?
6. And if not, how could anthologies develop this characteristic without losing their creator-potpourri-of-the-month and usually non-serial characteristics?
7. How is the mystery short fiction market doing in comparison?
And now I’m going to go drop off somewhere until my brain can process text efficiently again.