Sunday, August 3, 2008

One More Day - The AfterMath

Back in January of this year, I commented (in my zine for the MZS APA) on how Joe Quesada's move to cancel the lower selling Spider-Man titles in order to consolidate everything under the Amazing Spider-Man banner (with 3 issues published per month) would allow him to hide the decline in the actual number of readers of the main title even while the overall monthly sales would be higher. I even tossed out some numbers, citing an expected attrition in existing ASM readers who couldn't or didn't want to fork out for 3 issues a month as well as defections by fans unhappy with the new direction. In the original example, I noted how Spider-Man sales at the time sat around 190K per month (with 100K from ASM and the other 90K split between Spectacular Spider-Man and Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man). I estimated a 15% attrition rate (readers who didn't want to buy the extra two copies of ASM per month) and another 20% decline (from the original 100K number) due to unhappy readers leaving the title. I also noted I thought the 15% attrition rate was probably a conservative number and the 20% decline was far less conservative (in fact, I mentioned I thought that number might actually come in closer to 10-12%). So the final breakdown was 100K - 15K (15% attribition) - 20K (20% decline) which left the title with a cool 65K of sales PER ISSUE. With the title now being published three times per month, that would make the total monthly number 195K, which just comes in ahead of the 190K the were doing with three different titles. Taking the more conservative view, it seemed likely the per issue number would be a little closer to 72K, resulting in nearly 216K per month, which is a clearly a more notable increase over the 190K number.
Well, we're six months past the end of One More Day so we've got 18 issues of sales numbers to examine. Thus far the numbers have not quite settled. There has been a continual decline in sales from issue to issue. I will note that these numbers are only estimates as Marvel and Diamond do not release actual sales numbers. However, the estimates should be consistent between pre-OMD numbers and post-OMD numbers (in other words, regardless if the actual numbers are incorrect, they were calculated using the same methodology, so whatever the pre-OMD numbers are wrong by is what the post-OMD numbers would be wrong by --- long story short, that means they can be compared against each other and any resulting difference should have some reasonable validity).
I'm using the numbers as estimated by the guys over at - you can find their analysis here if you're curious:
So let's break it all down. We're going to start all the way back in January 2007 to show what sales were pre-OMD and then finish with the numbers up through June 2008.

January 07
ASM (537) - 114,800
SSM (34) - 47,000
FNSM (16) - 41,800

February 07
ASM - 142,900
SSM - 59,400
FNSM - 52,800

March 07
ASM - 137,700
SSM - 56,100
FNSM - 50,700

April 07
ASM - (no issue)
SSM - 57,500
FNSM - 50,300

May 07
ASM - 119,628
SSM - 48,460 (annual)
FNSM - 49,891

June 07
ASM - 108,220
SSM - 57,057
FNSM - 47,886

July 07
ASM - 105,671
SSM - 55,323
FNSM - 46,446

August 07
ASM - 106,485
SSM - 52,180
FNSM - 44,661

So we can see that pre-OMD, the Spider-Man family of monthly titles was actually averaging about 220,729 copies per month (I threw out the April figures since ASM wasn't published that month and there is no way to properly gauge how many issues one more issue of ASM would have sold given the fluctuations in the monthly sales numbers of that title over the 8 month period)

One More Day

September 07
ASM - 150,788

October 07
FNS - 110,295

November 07
SSN - 105,050

December 07
ASM - 129,085

These numbers held fairly steady with what ASM was doing before the big change (complete with major fluctuations)


January 08
ASM 546 - 127,958
ASM 547 - 101,213
ASM 548 - 97,959

February 08
ASM 549 - 101,112
ASM 550 - 90,874
ASM 551 - 88,084

March 08
ASM 552 – 89,835
ASM 553 – 82,648
ASM 554 – 81,072

April 08
ASM 555 - 86,902
ASM 556 - 78,458
ASM 557 - 77,057

May 08
ASM 558 - 76,966
ASM 559 - 74,206
ASM 560 - 74,012

June 08
ASM 561 - 72,372
ASM 562 - 71,409
ASM 563 - 70,792

We can see post-OMD a significant decline in sales. Up to this point, the title has averaged about 257,154 copies a month (which is obviously 37K more than the Spidey books were doing pre-OMD), though obviously the trend has it only selling 214,573 in June while showing only minimal signs of stopping the decline.
The numbers speak for themselves. As of June, ASM isn't selling anywhere near close to what it was averaging per issue before Joe imposed his vision on the Spidey universe. It was averaging well over 100K per issue and is currently sitting at about 70K. In my own opinion, even with the move to a three times per month publishing schedule, ASM is a title that should still be able to do 80-85K per issue. There should be a strong enough core fan-base for the character to achieve those numbers. Right now, they obviously are not doing that.
Let's look at reality versus expectation. The reality is the book is currently selling 70K per issue (and still falling). The expectation is that a title like ASM should be sitting between 80-85K. That is a difference of 15K per issue at the moment (and if the book does fall to 65K, that would make it a 20K difference). 15K per issue times three issues a month is 45K issues. 45K issues that ARE NOT selling each month.
Go look at the June charts -
According to those numbers, a title that sells 45K for the month would be in the top 50 list. In other words, Marvel has the equivalent of a top 50 title that isn't hitting their bottom line. Now let's take it even further. 45K times 12 months is 540K. That is over half a million copies PER YEAR that isn't hitting Marvel's bottom line as it should be.
Clearly Joe's vision isn't working. He should be answering questions before Marvel's board of directors and their stockholders as to why the publishing division is leaving so much money on the table with this particular flagship title.