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Grand View Research responds after report on comics and manga sales questioned, says CMAA and CCA were used to understand ‘regulatory environment’

by 07.26.2022

Update, 7/26/2022, 10:45 a.m. EST: Grand View Research has responded to my complaint and say that in addition to using contemporary sources to develop their statistical model for comic and manga sales, the company also used historical material for background that included the Comic Magazine Association of America: “[N]ot all the secondary sources mentioned in the provided list are used for market size computation. There are sources that have been used to understand the historic market trends, consumer perceptions, regulatory environment, and other developments that happened in the past as well, and so is the case regarding the sources such as [Comic Magazine Association of America] CMAA, [the Comics Code Authority] CCA, [Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society] ALCS, and [American Booksellers Association] ABA… [N]ot all sources have been used to pick the information directly but used to develop an analyst’s perspective and for background data calculation.”

Grand View Research added, “We at [Grand View Research] GVR have been tracking and updating the significant developments happening in the overall books market for nearly a decade at annual and semi-annual intervals. For that, we used a range of sources which helped us build an inventory and repository of GVR data. Hence, many of these sources, although outdated, have been a part of our research. Owing to this we have listed them down.”

Grand View Research also acknowledged that Books Association Groups was a bogus group and should not have been included in the report, stating that the report I purchased would be revised, “Regarding [Books Association Groups] BAG, it was an error on our end, and we haven’t referred to this source during the course of preparing the report. We shall remove the same in the updated version of the file.”

And it is promising to give me a revised report with only applicable sources cited and would remove “outdated sources” in response to my complaint, and also include in the list of secondary sources those that had directly been quoted in the body of the report including, NPD Bookscan, American Booksellers Association, Researchgate, BookNet Canada, PublishDrive, Pew Research Center, Comicsbeat, Statista Advertising and Media Outlook, etc.: “Pursuant to your requirement, we will further modify the list of sources with an inclusion of the above-listed sources and exclusion of outdated sources such as CMAA, CCA, and BAG.” I told them to remove sources for which there was no attributable footnote that I could point to.

I’ll be honest, I’m still sorting out how I feel about all this.

Importantly, Grand View Research is saying that CMAA or CCA were never direct sources for unit sales and revenue for comics and manga, but were used to understand the “historic market trends, consumer perceptions [and] regulatory environment”.  And while, that is certainly a plausible reason to have utilized older, historical data in order to formulate a workable model, unfortnately, when you purchase a survey or a poll, by design the results are not falsifiable; that is, you cannot go back and reinterview the respondents to see if the data was legit or not. So, regardless of who you hire, you have to go somewhat on faith that they conducted a real statistical analysis.

Initially, my reaction to the use of seeming defunct sources or saying that one was using defunct sources called into question the veracity of the report, that is, whether a true statistical analysis was ever conducted based on relevant contemporary market data. Here, Grand View Research is explicitly saying a true statistical analysis was indeed done, and that the sources I was concerned about were never used in the way that I feared, and were instead used for background so that the statisticians would know how the U.S. comic book market has evolved over time.

Trust is a valuable commodity, and so part of me still tends to doubt their numbers because CMAA and CCA were utilized as seeming sources but without any context in the first place. At the same time, now that the context has been provided to me, I still have to weigh it. I’ll just say, I have more confidence today than I did yesterday about what I bought. It is entirely possible that I was too harsh in throwing them under the bus so quickly the moment I found a problem, but I felt an immediate obligation to disclose my concerns and instead aired on the side of transparency, knowing there would always be opportunities to further the record if warranted. 

At this point, I feel I have fulfilled my obligation to have alerted you to my concerns about the data as soon as I learned about them, solicited a response from Grand View, and then to have published their response alongside a continued presentation of their data. The original report follows below, but here are the caveats, the grains of salts — which by the way accompany every survey and poll that is done anywhere in some capacity — that you should be aware of. 

If you’re okay with their methodology, knowing what you know now, and feel Grand View Research likely still conducted a true statistical analysis, then go ahead, here’s the numbers, you can cite them.

Correction, 7/24/2022, 9:45 p.m. EST: Please no longer refer to the original article, which I will leave below for the record’s sake. The report I bought from the India-based Grand View Research that showed declining superhero comic sales, upon closer inspection, included erroneous sources in a list of “secondary sources” that could not have possibly been true sources, because the entities are defunct, including the Comic Magazine Association of America, the Comics Code Authority and something called the Books Association Groups that I think is also bogus. These were included in my own report in graphics with the acronyms, CMAA, CCA and BAG and initially I missed them, and instead in my writing I focused on Grand View’s primary stated sources of Marvel Comics, DC and Dark Horse. I knew there were more sources, but I didn’t deeply investigate every group listed in the bibliography until it was too late.

The fact these defunct and bogus sources were included at all calls into question the veracity of Grand View’s entire report, which was 70 pages long. When I received it, I thought I was getting data on comics unit sales and revenue that was a statistical projection based on a sampling of industry data, and that is certainly what the methodology explicitly states. But I was so blown away by the numbers, that I should have paid more attention to who they said they modeled the data from. What’s odd is the sources that were used in the body of the report by the authors — it included quoted sources like NPD Bookscan, Pew Research Center and others — were entirely different from this list of 25 additional secondary sources, which appears near the front of the report but also in the graphics that were used in my article.

I have now removed the graphics that included the erroneous stated sources. I have also complained to the data company to explain the errors, but I don’t think there’s really a good answer. It looks like the company simply pulled from a list of what it thought were industry related book associations in the U.S. off of a Wikipedia article and included them as “secondary sources” to make the research sound more thorough. I cannot say why they’d be so sloppy as including defunct, fake sources made their fraud more detectable. But I want to apologize to you and Comicsgate for fucking this up. I let you down. I’ll let you know how Grand View responds, if at all, to my complaint. Regardless of how they respond, I wanted to say that I cannot stand by their findings.

* * *

Superhero genre comic book and graphic novel unit sales, once the cornerstone of the American comic book industry, in 2021 declined by 16.7 million to 29.9 million, a 35.9 percent decrease, the latest data from Grand View Research in a report compiled from book trade industry sources shows.

In the meantime, English language, Japanese manga sales exploded in the U.S. by 29.1 million to 61.7 million, an 88.8 percent jump.

These numbers are simply devastating, mostly for Marvel Comics and DC Comics, the largest American-based comic book and graphics novel producers — at least, they used to be — as superhero comic and graphic novel revenue decreased by $286.9 million, a whopping 59.7 percent drop to just $193.6 million.

All the while, Japanese-led manga revenue skyrocketed by more than $426 million, a 125 percent increase, to $766.75 million now, increasing its unit sales market share to 55 percent and its revenue market share of both print and e-books to 70 percent of the entire industry.

You read that right. Manga sales now account for 70 percent of the American comic book industry. 70 percent!

Recently, Isom creator Eric July — whose Rippaverse brand of comics has broken the all-time crowdfunding record for comics as Isom raked in more than $2.8 million of sales in a week — expressed doubts about industry sales after a similar report from Comichron and ICv2 only included revenue data, but not unit sales.

“There are no unit sales on that report,” July noted on Twitter on July 5. As it turns out, July’s informed skepticism was well warranted.


Just a year ago, in 2020, superhero comics and graphic novels stood at 45.7 percent market share on unit sales and 48.9 percent market share for revenue for the entire industry. Now, just one year later, superheroes are at just 26.6 percent market share for unit sales and 17.8 percent of market share for revenue.

That makes 2021 the worst year in the traditional, old-school American comic book industry in modern history, if not all-time. It almost reminds you of that scene in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns when Superman gets nuked by a hydrogen bomb. 2021 was that bad for the American comic industry.

And that change to the industry could be permanent, if Grand View Research is to be believed, with the full report suggesting manga will hold a commanding 70 percent market share for the rest of the decade through 2030.

Grand View Research cited Marvel Comics, DC and Dark Horse Comics as primary sources of data for the report.

According to the report from Grand View Research, anime on streaming services appears to be a driving factor for manga sales: “Another major factor influencing manga sales in the U.S. is the widespread availability of anime on several streaming services such as Netflix, Crunchyroll, Funimation, and Amazon Prime… Manga is one sector of the U.S. book industry that is taking on a new set of younger and more diverse book purchasers, particularly those with a strong interest in Japanese material across various platforms, such as collectible toys, games, books, and video. There is a strong association between the popularity of manga series in the U.S. and the availability of comparable Japanese anime on video streaming (SVOD) services such as Crunchyroll, Netflix, and Hulu.”

Importantly, Grand View Research notes that the primary growth of manga sales is from younger readers: “In the emerging market for manga in the U.S., sales are driven primarily by younger consumers. The rising interest in manga by young consumers in the U.S. is expected to drive the sales of manga in the country during the forecast period.”

Which, makes all the sense in the world. Kids watch the shows on Netflix or Funimation, want more, and so wind up purchasing the manga volumes while they wait for another season of their favorite show to come out.

And yet, superhero comics in America lost their next generation of potential fans in the flash of an eye, despite multi-billion-dollar massive properties with the Marvel and DC cinematic universes that served as constant commercials for American comics, it has not led to a similar influx of new readers.

A point that Comicsgate professionals like Cyberfrog creator Ethan Van Sciver, a former DC Comics artist, and Cash Grab creator Cecil Jones have often made. In a series of animated videos courtesy of The Lucent creator Michael Bancroft, Van Sciver and Cecil’s appearances on Van Sciver’s Comicsgate Live program on YouTube in 2020 — while many small businesses like comic shops were closed due to Covid — discussed the failure of the mainstream comic industry to capitalize on the recent success of superhero movies.

 

 

In one clip, Cecil declared, “It’s creators that did not capitalize on the greatest advertising push for comics in the history of anything. You had the biggest 20-run of movies ever made, unprecedented, and what did you do? When everybody in the world knew who Tony Stark was, who Iron Man was, and they went into a comic store, who was it? It was Riri Williams. When everyone knew who fucking Hawkeye was for the first time in 60 years, it was a household name, let me go in there, where’s Hawkeye? Oh, that’s her over there. It’s Kate Bishop. You fucking creators that did not capitalize… Well, I want to see Thor, where’s his comic? Oh no, it’s her…”

Cecil concluded, “You assholes, you creators at the mainstream, you destroyed these shops, it was you. There’s nobody else to point the finger at. You were given a legacy by your betters, by the Stan Lees, Ditkos and Kirbys. Your betters gave you a legacy and the best you could come up with was Riri Williams and Kamala Khan. You fucking destroyed this shit.”

Now, the numbers are in, and it looks like Van Sciver and Cecil were right all along. Corporate, woke media — incentivized by federal government regulations allowing tax-free retirement investments by workers and the $762 billion federal employee retirement funds — have absolutely wrought havoc on American comic publishers who were unable to boost sales even as the rest of the publishing industry was growing.

Overall, despite the sinking sales of superhero comics and graphic novels from Marvel and DC, comic book and graphic novel unit sales still managed to increase in 2021 by 10 million to 112.2 million, a 9.8 percent increase. Revenue by comic and graphic novel publishers increased $106.6 million to $1.08 billion, a 10.8 percent increase. And it was entirely owed to Japanese manga. Every bit of it.

In short, superheroes are not so super anymore. The future of comics and graphic novels will continue to be in manga, the Grand View Research report projects, but it is also in independent comics, another bright spot in the report, which stated “With increasing digitization, penetration of smartphones, and internet access, businesses are gradually shifting from brick-and-mortar sales to e-commerce. Publishers and authors are showcasing their offerings across online platforms such as company-owned portals and e-retailers in an attempt to expand their product visibility…”

You know, like Comicsgate — where artists and writers have the creative freedom to tell stories that kids and adults actually want to read. Is that really so hard?

Robert Romano is the Editor-in-Chief at Comicsgate.org.

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