We have just added a toolbar of functions under each cartoon throughout our vast Cagle.MSNBC.com site.Â These are standard functions that readers are used to seeing on other cartoon sites, links for the cartoonist’s RSS feed, share the link on social media sites, add to favorites, print, email the cartoon ““ regular stuff that people expect.
The one that we had to think long and hard about was the “embed code” ““ the icon at the right under each cartoon.Â “Embed code” is standard Web 2.0 fare, allowing bloggers to put the cartoon on their blogs.Â This is what made YouTube a powerhouse, with their videos appearing on millions of blogs with links back to Youtube.Â We have gotten a steady flow of complaints from bloggers about our not making embed code available for our cartoons.Â The mentality is that copyrighted images should be free for all to use on the web.Â We offer our cartoons for sale to bloggers on our online store site, Politicalcartoons.com but very few bloggers buy cartoons.Â Some prominent sites, like Time.com, Comics.com and Townhall.com have ongoing subscriptions to our cartoons for a fee, and we pay other syndicates for permission to post their cartoons on Cagle.MSNBC.com.Â
Now we’re seeing market forces enter into the mix. Other cartoonists and syndicates are starting to offer embed code and free cartoons to bloggers; for example, United Media’s Comics.com site has an embed code button next to each cartoon.Â We license 24 cartoonists to Comics.com, but didn’t allow them to use embed code on our cartoons – notice that our cartoons on Comics.com are the only ones that have the embed code commented out.Â
Clearly other syndicates don’t feel the same way we do about embed code. Â Creators Syndicate and The Washington Post Writers Group are both happy to have United Media’s Comics.com give their cartoons away to any third party web sites for free, along with the United Media’s own cartoons.
What United Media’s Comics.com gets out of their embed code is promotion for Comics.com.Â Their embed code includes an image link back to Comics.com.Â The links build Comics.com’s traffic and raises their search engine rankings ““ that’s nice for Comics.com, but I don’t see that The Washington Post Writers Group and Creators Syndicate get anything out of links back to Comics.com on their cartoons that they license to Comics.com and allow Comics.com to distribute to bloggers everywhere.Â We don’t allow any other sites to put embed code on the cartoonists we represent.Â Our embed code on our site will work only for the approximately 70 cartoonists we represent.
We get the same thing out of the embed code on our site that Comics.com does, a link back to our site, traffic and search engine optimization.Â Our embed code includes a link back to the Politicalcartoons.com store for people to purchase reprint rights, and hopefully soon, t-shirts and mugs.Â Our embed code makes cartoons show up with a text links below the cartoon, which is something that the commercial sites that subscribe to our cartoons likely wouldn’t tolerate, so the links probably keep our subscriptions viable for our online customers.Â Also, it isn’t practical for a commercial site to post each cartoon from our site with embed code; that is the province of bloggers.Â If a commercial site ran our cartoons regularly from embed code, they would get an angry call from us, so we’re hoping it won’t impact our subscribers – and the individual bloggers who use it don’t buy anything anyway.
We’re not putting up the embed code in response to the demands of bloggers.Â In fact, we’ve sent out lots of DMCA notices and taken down hundreds of blogs who were pirating our cartoons in the past.Â It isn’t a response to piracy; rather it is a response to the market. If we don’t offer embed code for our cartoons, while other syndicates do, soon it will be the other syndicate’s cartoons that are seen in the blogosphere, and the other syndicates sites that become the most popular, and we’ll be marginalized.Â It is a competitive march to devalue cartoons, and we’re swept along with it.
On the other hand, newspapers are dying. We make more of our income from print, and we’re seeing our print income diminish slowly.Â At the same time, income from pay per use sales on our Politicalcartoons.com site is growing slowly.Â I think that is a trend for editorial cartoons, and we’ll be looking to expand more through the store and pay per use sales than through newspapers in the future.
So adding the embed code to our site was a difficult decision.Â I’m surprised that it doesn’t seem to be such a difficult decision for other cartoonists and syndicates as it was for us.Â Now that we have it up, we’ll see if the bloggers really want to use the cartoons, like they said they did.