Kleefeld starts off with a critique of browser compatibility, which hasn’t been a problem for me with Zuda (I use Flock, a Firefox-based browser) but his thoughts on Flash and “push” vs. “pull” models I think have some relevance on a wider scale.
See, there’s a larger problem with using Flash to deliver web comics, beyond iPhone users not being able to partake of the content. The model Zuda is using is what you would call a “pull” — Zuda is actively trying to pull readers to their site on a regular, recurring basis to read their comics. They have to reach out to users, get their attention, and convince them to click over to their site.
Many (I daresay “most”) webcomics these days instead opt for a “push” model. That is, they push their content out to the user via some form of syndication (RSS, XML, etc.) and the reader can view the content on a device and format of their choosing. Maybe it’s through a feed reader, maybe it’s through a customized iPhone app, maybe it’s part of a portal set-up someone created, maybe something else altogether. The point is that people can move the content around quickly and easily.
This seems to me to be symptomatic of the comics industry at large and its attitude toward new readers. Comic shops are wonderful things, but they are often not welcoming to the casual viewer (I know plenty of notable exceptions) and more importantly, many people never set foot in a comic shop–because why would they? They don’t read comics.
With the Web, and with “push” models like Kleefeld describes, comics have an excellent opportunity to reach out to people who wouldn’t set foot in a comic shop–and wouldn’t go looking for Zuda comics. If you could embed, move, link to individual pages, and other features that he mentions in the post, there would be many more opportunities to attract new eyeballs to the comics.
The problem is that viewers on one site are easy to calculate and easy therefore to charge advertisers for or to monetize. Embeddable video is not easy to monetize. Yet the media environment we are in, as many, many theorists have noted, is increasingly one where the price point is “free” and whether we like it or not, we have to think about different ways to support art and artists than the advertising-and-paid-content models we’re used to. (For some interesting thoughts on monetizing new media, check this post out.)