Fresh off the heels of Marvel’s 700 free #1 issues, Dark Horse is getting in on the digital giveaway bonanza. For their 2 year anniversary, the alt-comic book publisher is giving away 50 free #1 issues from their digital store.
Don’t worry – Dark Horse planned ahead enough to prevent their giveaway from crashing the internet. In fact, they may have perfected the digital giveaway for everyone.
I wrote recently about the impact of a freemium marketing campaign in comics, mostly in terms of Marvel’s recent slew of giveaways. Ultimately, I’m of the opinion that a mass giveaway is a great strategy for Marvel, but I did wonder what impact this might have on the smaller comic book publishers of the world.
In a lot of ways, it’s a similar situation to what we saw in music with Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails in 2008. Here’s Radiohead, the biggest respectable rock band in the world, telling fans and passer-bys alike that they can just have their new album.
It was a revolutionary use of digital in the music industry, and likely a brilliant move for Radiohead. Again, this is a tremendously accomplished, critically acclaimed band that has had financial and commercial success. A free album – in this case giving fans the option to pay a recommended $5 – might just expose more new listeners to Radiohead, ultimately leading them to the band’s back catalog.
For a new band without Radiohead’s pedigree, though? There’s a concern that giving it away might kill their chance to make a living. Obviously, as fans, we love giveaways. But when free becomes the product expectation, it’s just harder to convince new consumers to penny up later.
This is the challenge Dark Horse faces. Celebrating their 2 year anniversary, they just don’t have the established pedigree of a Marvel Comics. Can they really afford to giveaway such a bulk amount of comics?
I think that they can, and already I’m seeing ways in which this promotion will increase purchase of digital and paper Dark Horse comics in the near future.
While there are some fairly obvious differences between the music and comic book industries, it’s worth pointing out that giving away a single #1 issue clearly sets up a reader for a future purchase. Giving away a whole album – likely a year (or more) of work – might set up future concert tickets, but with a #1 issue you can’t possibly complete the story without the next issues.
With that in mind, I can already see some quick wins for Dark Horse. While I think that reading Mind MGMT in digital form is borderline heresy, it’s also going to expose a lot of readers to one of the best comics of 2013.
The other fantastic move by Dark Horse? You can download all 50 issues in one bundled click – and then they’ll actually appear as individual issues in the Dark Horse app. This saves a lot of annoying “which one do I want” discussion, and lets you just quickly enjoy the giveaway. To go do that now: click here. The promotion ends April 26, 2013, so don’t wait too long if you’re interested.
On that note, here’s a quick look at the Dark Horse giveaways, and the issues I’m most excited to read (or know I love) in bold.