The Incredible Shrinking Comics Section -- why?!

I’ve seen reprints of comic strips from the early 20th Century. They typically covered half a page. On weekdays!

Now, not only is the 3-4 panel strip (or single-panel strip) the norm, but they keep printing them smaller and smaller on fewer pages! Why is that?!

And what’s the the muddaeffing ad flap?! :mad:

Less room for comics == more room for ads.

I remember Bloom County commenting on this all the way back in the Eighties. Has it gotten worse since then, or has it reached its “shrunken plateau”?

In one of Bill Watterson’s books he describes what a difficult negotiation it was to get the newspapers to print in anything other than the standard format, which forced him to waste the Sunday lead panel on a throwaway, because most of the time it would be deleted, and left him with small panels when he wanted a single large one.

It all had to do with advertising, and being able to shrink the comics without losing legibility. That’s what makes so many of todays comics, well, stupid. Think about how you would run a text dense strip like Pogo and still be able to read it.

But how is the economics of newspaper advertising different now than it was in the Good Old Days?

Newspapers are more advertising driven nowadays. Though it always was important for income, the newstand and delivery sales paid a lot more of the costs than they did today.

Also, newspapers were bigger – physically, each page was larger. So even if you got as much ad space as you do today, there was more room for news and features.

I don’t have any handy, but when I was looking at NY Times in the 30s, there were far fewer ads (partly due to the Depression) and much more space – each sheet of paper was bigger. I think they were able to fit in eight columns per page instead of six today. Tabloids also were a little bigger. Of course, the Times didn’t have comics, but they put news in their place. Also many papers of that vintage (e.g., The Daily News or The New York Sun) didn’t have comic pages per se – they scattered the comics throughout the newspaper.

Most comic artists have complained about the trend, but one advantage is that each newspaper can put more comics in each comics page, which is a good thing for them.

So why did they shrink? Does paper cost more now (adjusted for inflation)? If so, why?

The newpapers themselves are smaller. I recently came across some newpapers I saved from the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. I compared the same paper (The Seattle Post Intellengencer) with the paper I received that day and it was about 1½ inches narrower. It was about 2 inches shorter. Smaller newspapers mean smaller comics.