Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Disney's galling hyperbole.... 

Thanks to Kevin for pointing me on the right track to Tom Spurgeon's entry. Among other things, it links to the official press release and a newswire article.

So, does Disney's original claim to 50% of worldwide comics publishing stand up? Not by a long shot.. What makes me mad is that even with this additional information, no single source is providing the whole picture and frankly who knows what else they are leaving out of the equation.

Let's start with with the official press release:
Disney represents approximately 50 percent of all children’s comic magazines sold around the world, reaching readers of all ages with 220 million comics each year.

OK, the actual number of comics is a good statistic to have. This gives us something a bit more solid to work with. The other aspect is two narrowing words "children's" and "magazines". From that we can gather they don't mean graphic novels and they don't mean comics for adults. Of course "children" is pretty broad in itself. Do they mean just little kids, or are they including teens?

This is all well and good, but it can't possibly be the whole story. Why? The big M: manga. Looking at Dreamland Japan, the stats for manga magazines in 1995 is a staggering 1.6 billion copies. Taking just Shonen and Shoujo, that is still 800 million. Now, that was nine years ago, but it is my understanding that overall manga is still doing pretty well in Japan, and certainly hasn't lost anywhere near a fourth of their sales.

Looking at the other article gives us some answers:
Disney owns about half of the nonmanga comic book business worldwide, though Dugan said that the vast majority of sales are outside the United States.

So, this time they specifially say manga isn't involved, but now they just refer to comics in general, not saying anything about comics for children or the magazine format.

The only thing that seems half-way plausible to me is that they have 50% of the market of comic magazines that are aimed at children and are not manga.

But even that doesn't really tell us enough. OK, so manga is out, but what about Korea's rising comic industry? What about Hong Kong? Also, what about manga sold in other countries? Are the various manga magazines like Shonen Jump USA and those in countries like Germany being counted or not?

I probably shouldn't be dwelling on this so much, but it really is annoying to me that they'd try to get away with such a huge misrepresentation. Yes it is nice that Disney sells a lot of comics throughout the world. If they'd merely said they do 220 million issues a year, I would have been pleasantly surprised and congratulated them. It is a shame that they feel like that isn't enough and that they have to be vague in general and specifically ignore the biggest comic industry in the world just to try to make some point. I don't know what the actual breakdown of automobile manufacturers is, but imagine the uproar if Honda did a marketing campaign where they said something like "We have 50% of the world automobile market..." and in fine print said "not counting US companies". It is laughable just trying to imagine the idea...

As an aside, I think it is pretty sad that everyone (including the comic news sites) seems to know so little about the world comic market that something like this can go relatively unchallenged. I mean I'm just a random reader and red flags went up for me right away. I knew they couldn't possible have 50% of all comics in the world period, though I was having a little self-doubt in that I found it hard to believe they'd be THAT grossly misleading and that people would just parrot them if it wasn't at least partially true. I also figured maybe they just meant thin monthlies and not thicker magazine anthologies, since it'd be galling for them to just not count manga. In any case, it shouldn't be bloggers that are the ones trying to figure this stuff out..

I hope some people are feeling a bit embarassed at this point and telling certain Disney reps to be a bit more clear on their statements in the future...

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