I managed to defy the odds for a long time, but the odds finally caught up with me last summer, when the Houston Chronicle eliminated my position. These days, not even a Pulitzer could ensure my job security. It’s a pretty sad when there’s not a single newspaper in Texas, the second most populous state in the Union, that has a staff editorial cartoonist.
When was the last time you saw a cartoon on social media? Did you stop to read it? You probably did. The reason a cartoon is effective is that it engages very quickly - it’s a five-second investment in your time. But that’s the rub. What makes a cartoon so effective on social media, also makes it nearly impossible to monetize. They get copied and pasted all over the web. If it really strikes a chord, it will spread like wildfire. That’s a great thing, if you care about getting your message out. But it’s not a good thing if you’re in the publishing business.
One cartoon I drew during the 2016 election was posted by a handful of political advocacy pages. It received well over 500,000 shares, and those were just one ones I was able to track. Imagine how many people saw that cartoon. If 50-100 people saw each person's facebook share (a conservative estimate), that's 25-50 million views of that single cartoon.
It’s the central dilemma for cartoonists today - we are probably more widely read than ever, thanks to social media. And yet, social media is killing us.
Which brings me to my point; maybe it’s time for me to get out of the publishing business (OK, that decision’s already been made for me), and get into the messaging business. What if I can build an army of small subscribers and supporters, along with perhaps a handful of larger donors, that get it? A lot of people have told me they would support my work directly, so I've set up this Patreon page. Without it, I will be out of the cartooning business by the end of the year.
Hopefully, I can raise enough to get back to cartooning, full-time, instead of three cartoons a week. At this point in our history, we need political cartooning more than ever. Someone needs to combat the Russian troll farm propaganda and the disgrace in the Oval Office they helped foist on us.