Over the past few weeks, we’ve had a barrage of press releases from comiXology about exclusive deals it’s made with publishers, including, most recently, an agreement with Marvel to digitally distribute single-issue comics. That made me think about the digital comics market as a whole, and how these exclusives would affect the other big digital distributor, iVerse. So I called and asked.
What I was surprised to hear was that iVerse CEO Michael Murphey isn’t particularly bothered by these exclusives. That’s because he doesn’t see iVerse as going head to head with comiXology; he sees them as serving different markets in different ways, and the exclusives don’t affect them as much as you might think. Read on to get his very different take on the digital comics market.
Robot 6: I’m going to just ask you point-blank: comiXology has announced a number of exclusives lately, which shuts you out of part of the comics market. What does that mean for iVerse and for Diamond Digital, and what will you do about it?
Michael Murphey: There’s a couple of things that are going on right now. ComiXology, it seems to me, is trying to recreate the direct market in digital form. That’s not where iVerse has ever been. We have always thought of ourselves as a newsstand rather than the direct market. We do better than most people think because most of our customers are not direct market customers. We sell a ton of children’s product through Comics Plus Kids, we have Archie Comics and we have Pocket God comics—one thing you are going to see is we are launching that New Crusaders product with Archie. We are also rebranding our app and launching web and Android versions before the end of the month.
Last week’s announcement that Diamond and iVerse would team up to form Diamond Digital, and sell digital comics in comics stores, left a lot of questions unanswered. So I went straight to the source: Michael Murphey, CEO of iVerse, which is Diamond’s digital partner in this deal.
iVerse is the company behind the Comics Plus app, as well as a number of branded apps, including IDW and Archie. Unlike comiXology and Graphicly, their apps run only on the iPad and the iPhone/iPod Touch, but that is about to change: As Michael explains below, they are expanding onto other platforms, which should make the program more attractive.
Brigid: I’m still trying to get a handle on how this works. I understand that customers who buy the digital copies will be handed a printed code, which they then redeem. How? Through iVerse’s digital storefront?
Michael: That is one way a retailer can sell a digital comic to a customer, yes. The retailer can also sell digital comics on their website. Codes can be redeemed on the retailer’s website or inside the Comics Plus application from iVerse.
Brigid: Will the sale go through the iTunes store?