Features and Columns

Why We No Longer Travel to Comic-Con

By  · Published on July 25th, 2016

The Big Idea

A requiem for a time when Comic-Con was cost effective.

A day late, but not a dollar short. Here’s this week’s Big Idea.

Over the weekend, our chief critic Rob Hunter did a wonderful job writing about the many trailers that emerged from the San Diego Comic-Con. Everything from that breathless Wonder Woman trailer to the secret Blair Witch movie. As the Publisher of this site, I’m pleased with our coverage despite the fact that we had no official boots on the ground in San Diego. This completes our third consecutive year of having no official presence at Comic-Con, an expense that I’m happy to avoid every year.

Comic-Con is a massive, sprawling event that for fans is a wonderful time. You enter the wild jungle of cosplay, pay your dues by suffering an onslaught of marketing at every booth and panel, and ultimately find bliss getting up close and personal with your heroes. Whether you’re looking to be in the room when Brie Larson is introduced for the first time as Captain Marvel or simply wait in line to get an autograph from Stan Lee, it’s all there in San Diego.

For the media, Comic-Con is also a massive undertaking. In 2008, we took a team of 7 staffers to San Diego to create video content, write-up every panel, and live-blog our way to victory. The result: a $10,000+ expense and a very small return on investment (the equivalent of about $2,000 in ad revenue). You see, people love Comic-Con. They get excited about all the trailers and big announcements that Hollywood brings every year, but there isn’t a mass market for Comic-Con content. The market is big enough, but it’s saturated. Everyone with a pop culture blog is there and everyone with a solid following on Twitter is dominating the web with their up-to-the-minute commentary. So unless you’re rolling out exclusive interviews as Entertainment Weekly does or you’re spending big money on video content as Fandango does, you end up as just another voice in the crowded space of Comic-Con’s cacophony of live-reactions.

Our goal is to provide smart analysis and tell interesting stories. For Comic-Con, those stories are thinner and thinner every year. And the analysis can be done remotely, as many studios are releasing their footage online. We view Comic-Con as a big, fun, expensive party that isn’t a great return on investment. Will we ever go back? Perhaps, should the right situation present itself, but I wouldn’t count on it. We’ve done Comic-Con. And we know that we can continue to cover it from afar and turn that into a situation that makes business sense.

The fact remains that we do love Comic-Con and encourage all of our readers to go and enjoy it at least once. It’s a logistical nightmare, an expensive vacation, and an exhausting weekend. But it’s also a lot of fun. One of those things we’re happy to say that we’ve done, but don’t quite need to do every single year. Especially now that all the good stuff ends up online, in glorious HD, the same day it debuts in Hall H.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)