Monday, January 27, 2014

Behind the Curtain: Comic Related Explodes!

2009 was a banner year for Comic Related. We were firing on all cylinders, and everything was falling right into place. We were rocking coverage harder than we ever had, and it was starting to pay off.

2009 was also the first year I did the full convention season run with CR, or at least a good chunk of it. We've vastly increased the amount of cons we go to each year, which is a big part of running a comic news site. But in 2009, we did cover a lot of ground as well.

We launched so many things in 2009. We already had some great columns where some of our contributing writers did weekly features with the likes of Tony Bedard, Dan Jurgens, Phil Hester and others. We had news coverage down pat, and were starting to reach out to publishers more to make some connections.

When you see news posted on a site, you don't often think of where it comes from or the work behind it. A lot of the news is available across multiple sites, after all, so it may seem easy. The truth is getting press releases is the easy part. You establish a presence, which we already had, and then you contact publishers and creators, or sign up to newsletters, and the stories start flowing in. But that's just the general stuff.

For previews and solicitations, and exclusive content, you have to be a bit more persistent and try to build relationships. If you have that presence built up, they'll usually work with you on previews and stuff. For exclusives and interviews, it's a different ballgame, which we'll delve into a bit deeper in a future column.

For us, we were happy getting what we had at the time. Some of our writers were doing regular columns on topics ranging from Golden Age to the current product, and as mentioned, some were interviewing creators on a weekly basis. We also had the Related Recap podcast, which was semi-weekly and at the time featured interviews with creators and some comic talk.

As convention season got underway, we were gearing up for travel. We would hit various shows throughout Ohio and Kentucky since that is our general area. But either we or correspondents also covered shows in North Carolina, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, and California, which I'll get to in a minute.

In April, we launched two more podcasts with my Zone 4, and Eric Ratcliffe's Why I Love Comics. Those two shows, and later the RaynMan Power Hour, Discussions with Decapitated Dan and others would form the foundation of what is now a large network of podcasts covering a variety of topics. Zone 4 was a round table discussion podcast, and at the time, Why I Love Comics was a review show. The RaynMan Power Hour was like a variety hour offering mail, games, comic talk, skits and more. For a while, those were the four cornerstone podcasts of CR, and they allowed us a unique edge - we were a comic news site that also had a group of podcasts. At the time, that wasn't common. 

We also launched webcomics in 2009 with New Comic Day, It's All Related, Killer Robots Love You, and D34D L4$T (among others). Only one of those survived in the long-term, but it was yet another feature that made us stand out from other sites offering similar content. We aimed to be a one-stop shop.

Figuring conventions into the mix, if you are a comic news site hoping to get breaking news content, you have to attend the big cons. We started small and gradually branched out, but this year, we went all out for San Diego Comic Con. Chuck actually went to the con that year and blogged from the convention floor with photos and articles. John and I stayed home and rocked out our first full-on "we're not there" coverage. I put everything else aside that week and followed every news story I could. We were doing around the clock coverage, I was doing panel write-ups, and we had Chuck's blog (designed by yours truly, I might add). We killed it!

And that's when it happened. That took us over the edge. By October 2009, we had jumped from 2-3 million hits per month to 10-11 million hits per month, consistently. And we would stay in the 7-10 million hit range for the next year and a half! We had broken through our ceiling and reached a new level. Sure, we still had a long way to go, but that was a huge victory for us. This site, that had existed for 5 years and only in its current state for one year had tripled its views in 3-4 months' time. We knew now what we were capable of.

Next Time: Breaking down how we got there.


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