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Newspaper Cartoons: Why They Exist

Dec 29, 2007
Newspapers run a full page called "the comics page" in which they receive no revenue. Why do they do it?

Comics do bring newspapers money. They simply do so in a different way than news pages.

Newspaper comics create loyalty, and usually while the reader is very young and reads nothing but the comics. Newspaper publishers are not ignorant, and they know loyalty sells papers and circulation sells advertising.

Cartoons create a kind of devoted loyalty that is difficult to explain. It falls under the auspices of "a picture tells a thousand words". A good cartoon slowly seeps into the public psyche and does not leave. Word of mouth is developed. Advertisers hear about it. Even if the paper may (or may not) be of the highest standard of journalism text, it does contain their favorite cartoon that a reader "has to see".

The publisher spoon feeds us comics at a young age for a reason. And it is not just to make us laugh, it is to make us used to reading that paper.

Comics have a powerful psychological effect and if we find one or two we like, we will surprise even ourselves at the fact that we will buy that paper on a daily basis, simply for our favorite comics.

A savvy newspaper wants a majority of cartoons to be "family-friendly" but also wants a mix of "somewhat controversial" or "different", though certainly reader-friendly to offset and appeal to college and post-grad level readers who may only have time to skim the paper, but will always go straight to their favorite cartoon, often before reading the news.

Peanuts Creator Charles "Sparky" Shulz put comics on the map. He was not a great artist, but he knew what we wanted.

Charlie Brown was the "proverbial loser" who, no matter how successful an adult becomes, still generally always works with that issue of "younger days" when even the dog knew answers more than him/or her.

Gary Larson drew what he felt we were thinking. It was offbeat, and it had a cynical and distorted look at the world. But he knew in his mind we would not find it so distorted at all. In fact, the world really was distorted and he simply knew how to point it out to us with The Far Side.

Many are not aware but most newspapers only pay the cartoonist pennies for their work. The cartoonist is more likely to make a living selling licensed art image goods such as books, tshirts, mugs etc.

Cartoons exist because the public wants them to exist. If the public didn't want them, the editor would cut the page in a minute. It is a costly page and no advertising is sold on it. It is only there to build loyalty as I mentioned. To the editor, the fact that it makes us smile is simply icing on the cake; as long as we keep buying the paper.
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