If you’ve been paying attention to our new year plans, then you’ve probably noticed our nascent editorial series about the Geek Godfathers of the Internet! We’ve endeavored to talk to some of the biggest, oldest nerdy news sites on the web, getting the scoop on how these influential geeky sages got their start.
You’re probably all familiar with CBM, as it’s been on the vanguard of superhero movie news for the past decade, serving articles faster than any other site around. It’s actually fathered quite a few bastards sites of its own. You’re very own UTF owes its birth to CBM. I started as a web journalist in those geeky halls before creating our lovely little home for “Rants and Raves” here at UTF.
Without any further ado, check out our awesome interview with the man himself.
UTF: First things first, if you had to introduce yourself in 3 sentences, what would you say?
Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my Father. Prepare to die.
UTF: More specifically, could you give me a brief history of your time before ComicBookMovie.com. What was your job? What were you doing? What caused you to say “You know what? I feel unfulfilled in “this” and “this” way, and I’d really love to make a geek news site
Excluding all but my Internet jobs… I started out at AOL in content development, then as an email manager for an online toy store and comics subscription service called AnotherUniverse.com (later Fandom.com), then I worked at an Internet Ad Agency called 10x Marketing. It was there I met my business partner Nate Best (a fellow comic books/movies fanboy), and because of our success in helping other people develop their websites, we decided to build our own entertainment news site(s). And in 2003 we quit our jobs to develop on ComicBookMovie.com full time.
UTF: Wow, I had no idea that you had previously had a career in e-marketing. Now, how soon after you started CBM did you quit your day job? That’s a mighty MIGHTY brave decision to make. What did it feel like? What emotions were you going through?
We started CBM in 2003 and left our jobs within the year. Of course that didn’t mean we were supporting ourselves fully with the income from our site. Nate (my business partner) was freelancing other jobs until around 2006, it wasn’t until around 2008 that we were able to both work full time just on our site(s). As for how it felt to be our own bosses… It feels great! There is nothing better than to have your own successful business.
UTF: Did you have any experience creating websites? In web marketing? Or was CBM birthed purely from your geeky passions?
I’ve always been mainly a content developer, user manager and email marketer. Nate is the programmer and website designer. We both worked on other people’s websites for a couple years before doing our own.
UTF: I know CBM wasn’t always the flagship site, right? You have quite a few others. Which was first? How many different sites did you have? Were they based on different movie genres?
ComicBookMovie.com has always existed as our main site, but yes, initially we developed a bunch of specific superhero “satellite sites” that fed into it that were much more popular initially. We have sites that focus on the X-Men, Hulk, Superman, Batman, Blade, Spider-Man, Daredevil, Fantastic Four, etc., as well as a few gallery sites, and sites that focus on Anime and cartoons. They are all still around, but kind of neglected now. ComicBookMovie.com has blossomed far beyond all the others and taken up all our time.
UTF: When CBM debuted did you expect it to become the influential site it is today? You guys were the main source of superhero movie news for the longest time, and you’ve really carved out your territory as the dominate source on the web. Not a small feat!
Thanks! Yeah, we always knew CBM was going to be big—even from the first. At the time we had no idea how much hard work it would be, but we were confident in our skills (we had learned some early search engine optimization techniques at the ad agency), and we knew we had found a niche that hadn’t been properly developed. At the time there were only two other superhero news sites that were anything: SuperheroHype, which is owned by the ad network Gorilla Nation, and Comics2Film who also sold out to an ad network. We knew our fan focus and commitment to our users would help us beat out the competition, and in 2007 we became the most popular comic book movie focused site on the web, and have remained so—thanks to our readers and contributors.
UTF: How did you achieve that? Was it your unique deal with your readers? That they could create their own mini-sites on CBM and contribute articles? Or do you think it was more due to your prolificacy and your detail? Where other news outlets wouldn’t think that rough image from behind the scenes of X-Men 3 was worth showing their readers, you knew that’s the kind of stuff we fanboys live and die for. Was it that kind of insight and loyalty that garnered you so much growth?
UTF: How have you seen your following change over the years? Was there one year in particular that was a huge boom for you? Why? With the success of Marvel Studios and the birth of DC and Fox’s own cinematic universes, do you think CBM will only get bigger?
There is always attrition (people coming and going), but we have doubled our traffic every year since we began. I would say our biggest boost came in 2008 when we truly opened up our site to fan contributors. And yes, we are still growing. Right now we get around 8 million visitors a month.
UTF: In recent years, larger sites like IGN have invested in superhero movie news coverage. Do you think that was (at least in part) a response to your success?
I’d like to believe that all the copycats came about from noting our success (Lord knows there are a lot of break off sites that have come about directly from our user base), but I’m sure most of the big sites like IGN have just noticed the boom in comic book movies and are trying to capitalize on them—just like we did, but they are late to the game when we saw it coming from a long way off.
UTF: Now, that would be an example of your influence on pre-existing sites, but how many geek-sites has CBM spawned? Unleash The Fanboy had our start in your hallowed halls, as I was a contributor on CBM for about 6 months before I started UTF. Do you know any notable contributors who went on to make their own geek sites? How about folks who may not have been CBM contributors, but looked at your success and tried to emulate it?
Yes, we’ve inspired tons of new comic book and comic book movie focused sites. Practically all of them that I could name have come about either because they wanted to emulate us, or because they were disgruntled contributors on CBM and decided they wanted to compete with us. For that reason, I’m not going to name them. Needless to say, none of them come close to our size and popularity. But I wish good luck to them all. 😉
UTF: What do you think of that? I imagine some of it is definitely flattering, while the more obvious “clones” are really annoying.
There are a handful of geek sites (Latino-Review, geektyrant, superherohype) that seem to dominate the field along with you guys. What type of relationship do you have with them?
I only get annoyed at the ones who are clearly simply copying us and doing no work for themselves. Our contributors work hard to scour the web and find all the breaking CBM news, and some of these sites just use us as their research department. We have good relationships with all the big movie sites. We rub shoulders on the social networks and will bump into them at press junkets and set visits when we go to them.
UTF: Are you present at cons? What type of relationship do you have with fandom at this point? Do you aspire to be a Chris Hardwick type? Or do you moreso enjoy moderating the platform you have with CBM and fostering the community in a less ‘celebrity’ way?
Yes, we get to go to all cons. I gotta be honest though, unless we’re getting into some special press events, the SDCC is getting to be a huge hassle and expense. I personally like to go to ones like CinemaCon, which is an industry one that is not so crazy crowded but has all the pomp and stardom as SDCC. As a Utah based site, we are disadvantaged compared to the L.A. based entertainment news sites, but we get our fair share of invites to events and premieres because of our site’s popularity.
UTF: A lot of these larger sites have sold to corporations. Have you guys? If not, why? If so, are there any drawbacks? Do you miss anything about the way CBM used to be?
We’re completely independent, and haven’t sold out to any corporation. We feel that is why we remain popular and growing. Once a site sells out, they generally go bad. While we get offers all the time, we don’t have any plans on selling out. We are true fans of the genre and want to keep doing this for as long as we can.
UTF: You’ve lived a good portion of your life managing this massive media outlet. What have you learned? What advice would you pass on to any aspiring ‘geek journalists’?
Love what you do and work hard. You will be successful at anything you love doing.
UTF: And now some fun questions.. What are some of your proudest moments on CBM?
The community development and growth is something that makes me proud. And I’m always happy when I see a new contributor to the site grow in their writing abilities. It makes me feel like we’re doing something good here. I know an entertainment news site is not curing cancer, but it gives me warm fuzzies to see that we might be helping people develop skills that will help them in life.
UTF: You mention the pride you get when new writers start to hone their skills. As the EIC of UTF, I love seeing our writers develop as well, and they’ve definitely driven the site to the genre it is, which is generally indie comic reviews and fanboy rants. My question is, how long did it take for your community to become self sufficient? How long before you started delegating tasks to your writers, and allowed the ComicBookMovie username (one of your pseudonyms if I’m not mistaken) to rest a little bit?
Around 2008, when we truly opened up the site and promoted user-generated contributions AND allowed users to earn income from their contributions. That is when the site exploded.
UTF: What are you favorite news moments?
Whenever we break a hot news story or get a good interview.
UTF: Now, you say your favorite news moments are when you break a new story or get a good interview. I’m curious, because you’re definitely one of the biggest sites in the superhero genre, why don’t you send more representatives to junkets? Is it a cost vs ROI thing? Or is it more of a preference, since you provide a unique experience for readers covering news from the vantage of “internet sleuths”, opposite others who are part of the “industry”?
We rely mainly on user-contributions. So, we don’t NEED to always be at everything because fans send us in reports from practically everything out there.
UTF: As far as users, do you have any favorites? Any favorite events in the community? Any favorite bits of drama?
Oh geez, too many to mention. And I don’t want anyone to think I have favorites. As for community events. I enjoy doing the Beat Galactus Chatroom quizzes. As for drama, there is some going on ALL THE TIME. That is the beauty of our site.
UTF: What is the single article that best exemplifies CBM? The one that you’d throw to the masses and say “Here, HERE! This is what we’re about!”
I honestly couldn’t pull out a SINGLE article because ComicBookMovie.com gets hundreds of articles a day from old and young, from pros and beginners alike. And again, THAT is the beauty of our site. We’re truly catering to the fans and what they are interested in reading and writing about. And they are responding by taking part in making our site what it is.
UTF: Are there any big plans for the future of CBM? It’s all user generated content, but do you have any plans for a office with on staff journalists?
We may eventually need to hire help just to moderate and help edit, but no, our user-generated model is what has made us great, and I think we’ll stick to that. Hiring a staff would make us just like every other news site out there. We want to remain different.
UTF: Any new sites on your horizon? Has the success of CBM inspired you to create another site? An app? Any other business?
Stay tuned to the first part of 2014. We’re going to be introducing some new genre sites based upon our CBM model. Users will get to submit even more wide-ranging content.