Tuesday, November 02, 2010
My dear friend Heidi MacDonald recently posted a piece at Comicsbeat.com wondering why my site Kylebaker.com disappeared. I sent her an e-mail response, and realized my answer might be interesting to other fans interested in the behind-the-scenes cartooning biz stuff. So here goes;
I launched Kylebaker.com in 1999 for one reason only; Everyone I knew said I’d better grab ownership of the name before someone else did. So I bought ownership of the name for 10 years, with no idea what I was going to do with it.
In 1999, the internet was so slow that posting graphics was impractical. As a graphics professional, this rendered the internet somewhat useless to me. It took minutes to download and view still images, and any kind of animation took even longer. Sound files had to be either compressed or looped to reduce size. My first animated videos took longer to load than to watch, and had only minimal movement. Basically there was no good reason for anyone to visit the site or watch the cartoons. But I owned the name! Nobody was going to get that name from me!
As bandwidth eventually improved I became able to use the site as an illustration portfolio. Potential clients and art directors could browse minuscule reproductions of my magazine and advertising illustrations which were necessarily blurred by early jpeg compression. If they were sufficiently intrigued by this effort, they would contact me and request that I bring in a REAL portfolio with hard copies to their office. I got few jobs that way, maybe one or two per year over the next four years.
By around 2005, technology had progressed to a point which enabled me to create a pretty entertaining website, full of webcomics, Flash animation, a mailing list, and an online e-commerce store.
In 2010, my ownership of the name expired. When it came time to renew my ownership of the domain name, I took a look at the site and realized that in the last three years it had become totally obsolete. I hadn’t updated it in over a year, and most of the site had become links to external sites.
My online store had been replaced by links to Amazon, Ebay, and Paypal, all of which were better trafficked, and had better search engine rankings. Also, Amazon relieves me of the burden of shipping and marketing while paying me a small royalty for relatively little work.
Kylebaker.com’s animation section had outlived its usefulness when Youtube and Itunes podcasting enabled me to reach a much larger audience which has also grown with the advent of Veoh, Revver, Vimeo and others. All of these sites get great traffic and have amazing search engine optimization, embedding links, widgets, social networking and even offer you the option of accepting paid advertising in many cases.
Kylebaker.com’s Illustration portfolio section had been replaced by a Blogger blog. In the old days, when I updated a page on Kylebaker.com, I’d have to go through every page of the site and update all the links so that the site would run properly. While programs like Golive and Dreamweaver have made that process slightly less painful, I’d still have headaches when I either upgraded the software or changed programs. Over the years, I’ve gone through Netscape, Pagemaker, Pagemill, Golive and Dreamweaver. Every time I upgraded, I’d have to redo every link on every page one by one. And the site had dozens of pages by 2007. Blogger, on the other hand automatically updates all the links when I add a new page. When I post a new illustration, the tag puts it in the right sections (magazine illo, caricature, comic art, etc.), and updates every ink on the hundreds of pages.
Kylebaker.com’s home page and news section (which were often the same content) were replaced by widgets for the official Kyle Baker News blog, which is constantly updated with book releases, convention appearances, links to reviews, etc. Again, all of the blogger advantages apply, making it superior to my old site.
Last but not least was the kylebaker.com mailing list. Rendered obsolete by Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks. I was even going to launch a message board a few years back, and realized there was no reason. Folks can either communicate through a social network or even post a comment on my blogs.
And all of these sites are free! I’m not paying for design, programming or maintenance. I’ve got more free e-mail accounts than I know what to do with, and even have a mac blog and FTP site I don’t use. It's been ten years! Shit changes!
So the only reason to keep Kylebaker.com going was for the name. That’s like maintaining real estate on an eroding cliff. Why bother?
Also, as my business has grown in the last ten years, I’ve learned that naming my business after myself was more of a liability than an asset. First of all, it was killing me in the search engines. Ideally, your domain name should contain the name of the product your selling, like CollegeHumor.com. Especially if your site is, like mine, primarily graphics with very little text for search engines to read. If you’re searching for cartoons, jokes, animation, or comic books, the name Kylebaker.com doesn’t pop up. If you search for one of my titles, like Special Forces or Why I Hate Saturn, you will most likely be directed to a retailer’s site. The only way to find Kylebaker.com is by searching for Kyle Baker, which means that you are already aware of me, which means that you don’t need to be directed to a marketing tool known as kylebaker.com. By contrast, my blogs tend to show up in web searches because the tagged posts are specific to the topic you’re interested in. If you’re looking for a cartoon about a specific subject, or celebrity, or even if you’re looking for a New York based comic artist, you may very well be directed to a blog post of mine.
Last but not least, I found that naming my website and business after myself was a hindrance in pursuing partnerships such as distributors and licensees. More than once I’d hear, “We don’t deal with self-publishers.” It didn’t matter that I was moving thousands of units, and that some properties such as “Nat Turner” had been very profitable when I was handling the marketing. Moving my cartoon properties to publishers such as Image Comics and Harry Abrams actually increased the properties’ value in the eyes of potential business partners. In retrospect, I should have named my company something besides Kyle Baker.
Which brings us to today. I’m currently an executive at a new entertainment company I co-founded, tentatively named after one of our planned properties. Over the next few months we’re releasing an animated comedy series and an online adventure game. There will be websites for the company, game, and comedy. I assume the sites will bear the names of the properties, not the personnel. We’re market-testing the names, among other elements of the enterprise.
I’ve moved a lot of the Kylebaker.com content to Qualityjollity.com, because I registered that name a few years ago and it hasn’t expired. I’m currently developing a new website which combines a lot of my cartoon characters and storylines with a virtual world/gaming/social network/e-commerce environment. I will absolutely NOT name it after myself. I might name it after a character, or the world the characters live in. Or I might name it something descriptive that indicates what users can experience when they visit.
Also, next week I’ll be offering a nifty new download which may even render this blog obsolete.
I love now.