3 MY Interview: Michael Murphey, iVerse, CEO

Here at 3 Million Years I was given the chance for a Q & A session with iVerse Media CEO – Michael Murphy. iVerse, being the creators of the Comics+ app and the engine behind the Archie and IDW apps have a lot to shout about. Michael had a lot of interesting things to say, and I look forward to seeing what they have planned for 2011!
  • What was the deciding factor to get into digital comics?
I’ve been a fan of comic books and computers my entire life.  When the iPhone came along it seemed like we finally had the first device that could make comics an enjoyable mobile experience.  It seemed like a natural fit, and I started working on doing some comics of my own on the device. At the time I was a full time blogger and podcaster, so I thought I would just target my existing audience with comics I made…but after I showed off what I planned to do on some message boards publishers started calling…and it sort spiraled from there to where we are now…which is kind of insane.
It’s been a wild ride, thus far.
  • What sort of reaction did you get from publishers?
Interest and enthusiasm.  At first everyone was focused on back catalog, which made total sense at the time.  Now that enthusiasm is only growing, and including more recent material, digital only material, and some day and date material. So it’s been great.
  • How did 2010 work out?
2010 was amazing! Millions of digital comics were downloaded, our products were featured several times in a variety of important places, and we released Pocket God Comics with our friend at Ape Entertainment and Bolt Creative — which is the most successful American digital comic book of all time.  Plus we made some big deals in 2010 that aren’t public yet that we’re very excited about..so it goes down in the record books as a huge year for iVerse.
  • What do you see happening in 2011?
Lots of digital experimentation, and some consolidation of the digital distributor outlets.  I think things will tighten up a bit in 2011, and we’ll find creators experimenting with more digital-only projects that could be unique and interesting in a way that we’re just not currently seeing today.
  • What sort of feedback have you had from independent creators?
We’ve had nothing but positive feedback from independent creators about digital comics. Most of them agree that digital editions help sell their print material.  It’s a great relationship.  We receive so many submissions from creators that we can’t keep up with them all!  Creators are excited about the digital frontier.
  • What news is there on the Comics+ Kids app?
That app should launch very soon. We have a very strong offering of kids content, and it’s clear that there is demand for it.  The application is built, so we should see it live in Feb I hope.
  • What does comics+ offer over other apps?
Right now there is a great deal of similarity between the digital comics apps on the market — in a few months that won’t be the case.  As it stands today what has made iVerse different is the variety of digital products that we offer. Comics+ is only one element of a much larger catalog of software for us.  In it you’ll find industry news, a visual bookshelf view, and exclusive content that you won’t find in any other app…but that’s just the tip of the iceberg on where Comics+ and iVerse Media are headed in 2011.
  • Can you give any sales figures? Were there any surprises?
I can’t give exact sales figures at this time – but I can say that compared to what is being reported the total market for digital comics was in 2010 — if those numbers are correct, iVerse powered products are doing as well, or better, than anything out on the market.  I suspect those numbers are a bit lower than they should be, and I’m not exactly sure how they determined that number…since I know they didn’t talk to a number of major digital publishers and distributors about it…but I was very surprised at the projected total.
One thing that has definitely surprised me is the dominance of kid friendly content.  As an office we head to our local comic shop every Wed, and we’re very much plugged into what sells there.  Kid’s comics are a staple of our local shop, but we know they aren’t the best sellers on the shelves. In digital, that’s proven very different for us.  Archie, Pocket God, Transformers – those types of titles have absolutely dominated in 2010, and they all appeal to the kid and pre-teen markets. I think it says something about who digital comics are reaching.
  • Do you think publisher attitudes have changed over the last 12 months?
Maybe slightly, but from our perspective publishers have largely been willing to experiment with the digital landscape for a while.  I think things have heated up in the past 12 months for sure – but, as I’m pretty sure everyone will agree, this is all just getting started.
  • What are your thoughts on day and date releases?
I think it’s an issue that is not nearly as important to the “next generation” reader who may be picking up comics for the first time through digital outlets, as it is to the reader, like me, who hits the comic shops every week.  For people who are getting into comics for the first time via digital distribution channels…I doubt even 10% of them know or care if a book is released in print and digitally at the same time…they just want to read the comics that are available to them.
As long as its not hurting one side of a business to help another, I think it’s a good thing – and I do believe there are solutions coming that can actually help everyone in relation to that very issue.
  • How do you think the relationship between print and digital formats is going to work in the future?
Digital is the new newsstand, and I think the relationship will function in much the same way the print and newsstand relationship worked until the 90s when the newsstand outlet dried up for most publishers.
  • Have you any plans to work with retailers?

Yes. 😉

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