Portrait of a Comics Journalist in 2014 (1/2)

2

Through September and October, I did a small survey of comics bloggers and journalists. I had 74 responses from a wide variety of writers. Some are popular, independent bloggers on WordPress and Tumblr. Some work for sites like the Mary Sue or IGN. And some are new bloggers, just finding their feet in the world of comics criticism. (I found this out not through the survey itself, which was anonymous, but through their telling me they’d taken the survey.)

Please note:

  • I’m not a data scientist.
  • 58% of my respondents live in North America and 13% Europe.
  • 67% of respondents skipped my question on race and ethnicity. I allowed multiple, write-in responses. Of those who did, 80% identify as white, 8% as black, 4% as NDN, 4% mixed race, and 4% as Asian American. 12% identify as Jewish.

I was interested in answering several questions:

  1. How many people are getting paid to write about comics?, and how much are they getting paid?
  2. How do comics journalists and bloggers feel about their work? Are they happy? Proud? Disgruntled?
  3. Are we, as a group, excited about the future of our field?

Some responses are just what you (me, we writers about comics) would expect — there’s not a lot of money in writing about comics, guys. While others truly surprised me — quite a few of us are very financially secure.

Who Is Writing About Comics?

The majority of respondents, 68%, identify as comics bloggers. Only 42% call themselves comics journalists. 12% are comics theorists and 19% also creators.

A whopping 96% of respondents attended college or university.

I have academic or formal training in…

comics survey - academics

No surprise here, but comics blogging and journalism is dominated by white, straight people, at 72% each. 51% identify as cis men and 31% as cis women. 2% identify as trans, 2% as genderqueer or genderfluid, 1% as agender, and 3% as two-sprited. The remaining 8% selected other.

comics survey - sexuality

There’s a fear among the old guard that the teens of Tumblr are taking over comics and comics criticism, but… I couldn’t get any teen critics to take my survey, so I can’t speak to that. I don’t know if that’s because they don’t consider themselves official comics critics, journalists, or bloggers, or if I’m already an old loser (don’t tell me — I don’t want to know).

So is writing about comics a young person’s game? Not exactly. While 38% of respondents are in their 20s, 34% are in their 30s, and 26% are in their 40s.

comics survey - age

How long have you been writing about comics? 

comics survy - time writing

Work & Money

55% of respondents have permanent, full time jobs and 20% have permanent part time jobs. Another 22% are freelancers, while 7% are doing casual, occasional work. 5% reported having no job outside of writing about comics — this represents 3 fulltime writers, and 1 unemployed writer.

66% of respondents aren’t being paid to write about comics. Of those who are paid to write about comics, 4% receive salaries, 3% are paid per word, and 20% are paid per article. A significant portion of writers, 11%, are being paid through ad revenue. Only 4% are paid through patronage, with another 4% being paid through merchandise sales.

What’s significant about these numbers is how they do and don’t align with where we’re writing about comics. While 51% of respondents are independent bloggers and 18% are members of blogging collectives, 49% also write for a geek media sites, 7% for general media sites, 5% for an online magazine, and 8% for newspapers and magazines.

These questions allowed multiple responses and many respondents are doing both paid and unpaid writing. A small minority are doing only paid writing, while a large majority were doing only unpaid writing.

How much of your income comes from writing about comics? 

comics survey - income

Income is all over the map, and doesn’t correlate to those working as paid critics or journalists. Those working full time in STEM fields and part time as writers have by far the best incomes.

What is your yearly individual income? 

comics survey - ind income

What is your yearly household income? 

comics survey - house income

What’s disturbing in these results is that there’s a significant percentage of us making poverty wages. 30% are making less than $15,000 annually and 12% have a household income of below $15,000. About half of this group is working part time, and about half are being paid per article for their writing. 36% of these respondents identified as trans or non-binary, 36% as cis men, and 28% as cis women.

So, conclusions.

Only 34% of my respondents are being paid to write about comics. Is that healthy? Maybe! Monetizing a blog is notoriously tricky and the majority of respondents are bloggers. Many hope to eventually do just that, or to get work writing for one of the big geek media sites or an online media/culture magazine. But I’m also disturbed by how few of my respondents are making a decent living at this. It’s hard to do longform journalism and major works of criticism when you’re struggling to put food on the table — we still manage, but I can’t help but think we’d see more, if there were more paying jobs in the field.

33% of respondents are women! There doesn’t seem to be a correlation between gender and paid vs unpaid work, but I think that’s influenced by the size and scope of my sample.I hope to dig deeper into questions of gender, sexuality, race, and income in future surveys.

 

In part two we’ll look at values and beliefs.
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Editor-In-Chief. Megan was born in Toronto. She's still there. Philosopher, space vampire, heart of a killer.

2 Comments

  1. Hey! Thanks for this!

    I wish I had known about this so I could participate and also signal boost it. Or maybe I did participate and don’t remember? (I started a new job in September and things were kind of crazy – thus fewer blog posts). Then again, no Latinos in your data suggests I didn’t.

    Anyway, not sure how much of this info is surprising. 33% of the respondents being women is higher than some would have us believe, but I suspect at least slightly lower than the actual number if you did get those teen critics to participate.

    What does astonish me (or is disappointing ) is the lack of Latino representation. Also, what is “NDN”? Google didn’t help.