Zuda in October 2007, it promised to be the American Idol of webcomics. With all the talented comics creators out in the Infosphere, why not bring a few into the limelight and let the public decide which ones they like best? Crowdsourcing! User engagement! A ticking clock! How could it lose?
Don't get me wrong; I love voting websites. Hell, I used to run a website where people voted on their favorite blog posts. Voting sites are fun. They make readers feel invested in their favorite bits of content. They encourage creators to drive traffic your way. And you get recurring contestants looking to feel that thrill of victory.
But the problem is that Zuda isn't just some website. It's an attempt to create a stable of talent and a slate of books that DC can be proud to stamp its imprint on. It's an opportunity for DC to sell good books that don't fit within Vertigo or the DC Universe, and maybe bring those creators farther into the fold.
To that end, Zuda has always given itself a little leeway when picking contest winners. Each month, Zuda editors choose ten comics to compete for the love and affection of the readers. Based on reader votes and ratings, a winner is selected; said winner gets a year-long contract to keep making their comic for Zuda. If the Zuda editorial board decides it absolutely must have a particular comic, it declares it an "instant winner" without having it compete.
So Zuda gets some truly awesome comics (such as the much-acclaimed Bayou, High Moon, and The LaMorte Sisters), but it's sometimes at the mercy of web-savvy or overly enthusiastic creators. For social voting sites, the tyranny of crowds will put the occasional crappy article on the front page. When Zuda pumps 52 weeks into a mediocre comic, it's a much bigger deal. And that's before we even get to the drama it creates.
It's not a huge surprise, then, that Zuda announced today that it will abandon its voting system in favor of an editorial selection process. Good on you, Zuda. It's your time, money, and reputation that goes into these things and you should promote the comics you want to promote. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see whether Zuda continues to engage its community without the monthly competitions. The next few months will speak a lot to Zuda's relevance in the world of webcomics.