Untitled (Wednesday, 2nd April 2003)

Borderline #20

Borderline the online comics magazine has gone back to being free again. I was featured in issue #17 as a “Young Gun” (and look at the good it did me 😉

Anyway, since I’m obviously not going to do any artwork tonight, here’s some thoughts on Borderline.

I’ll do a mini SWOT analysis – Strength Weaknesses Opportunities Threats (and I’m making most of this up without a great deal of prior thought on the matter). The biggest problem I see with Borderline, and the one which I suspect they perceive as their biggest strength, is the PDF format. The landscape format may read brilliantly on a 19” monitor, but resolutions of 1024×768 make the text a smidgen too small to be comfortable, plus the layout, while great for reading as a printout, is too difficult to properly read on screen. It’s obviously been laid out by people with great publishing skills but…

Strengths

  • High quality of material
  • Large amount of material
  • Large Target Audience
  • Well designed
  • Unique Voice
  • Excellent staff and contributers

Weaknesses

  • Very Phil Hall dominated editorial voice
  • Difficulty in attracting advertisers
  • Difficulty in converting readers into paying readers
  • The Design requires a sizeable screen to read
  • The Design requires a large download

Opportunities

  • Paid advertisements, changing the format to a more traditional site based format will at least allow advertisers to understand the format.
  • Collecting users information, start to get an idea of the demographic – get punters to register to allow viewing the site.

Threats

  • Bandwidth is expensive and the costs scale upwards very quickly – the more people downloading the more expensive it gets.
  • Unpaid staff won’t want to be unpaid forever, they have to be incentivised. How to do this?
  • Other online sites – what can Borderline offer that they can’t/don’t?
  • Other Magazines – what can Borderline offer that they can’t/don’t?

Here are my feelings on the matter:

Borderline’s strengths lie with its content and not its medium, IMHO, its format is what’s killing it. The biggest benefit to businesses the internet offers is the one-to-one relationship it can provide to customers. In other words, if you visit Amazon.Com you receive a site tailored to meet you. When you go to Borderline you’re given the chance to download the magazine and aside from the basic PayPal system that’s it – no attempt to reach out to the customer.

If I were doing borderline I’d keep it on a fixed monthly schedule, keep the quality and range of material identical, but, rather than the single download PDF file, I’d have an entire site generated for you when you visit. This site would show you articles you have purchased for reading plus all new articles with suggestions that might be interesting (and possibly archived material which might be of interest). You select the articles that you want to buy and this would fire up a payment option (say, for example, each article is 10p x 10 articles = £1.00) wing off a pay pal payment (or some other format) and bingo – the computer will now allow you to read those articles, in perpetuity.

Advantages:

  • You only pay for what you read, the individual authors could, therefore, receive payments based on readers numbers.
  • Bandwidth is reduced, only the page being read at the time is downloaded, less likely to be a massive surge in downloads (currently, if you want to read the editorial only, you have to download an entire 10Mb file – does that really make sense?)
  • Advertising Banners, while no longer the money earner it once was, can at least work on a site like this. In fact, they can be tailored to specific articles – article about DC? Have a Marvel advert 🙂
  • Potential for credit card transactions which would allow the paying audience to expand beyond the pay pal crowd. Get an arrangement with a comic shop/friendly retailer and you can start processing credit card transactions – while they don’t work well on micro payments, if a subscriber has given a credit card they could build a credit of £10 before a transaction is put through.

Disadavantges

  • You’re gonna need some smart cookie to get the web stuff to work. But I’m sure that won’t be a big problem, potentially you could tie in with one of the micro-payment comic crowd.
  • Er.. There’s probably a load more, but that’s enough for now.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Tell you what, I’m gonna email them to Phil Hall. 😉