In this week’s Drawn & Quartered column from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Wilma Jandoc and Jason Yadao takes a look at ADV, a company that is becoming notorious for never finishing a series. They crunch the numbers:
Analysis of an animeondvd.com database and Diamond Comics shipping lists shows that out of 79 series the company has announced since 2003, 43 have been canceled outright or put on indefinite hiatus. Another 11 were announced in 2004 but never released.
Jason and Wilma weren’t able to contact anyone at the company to figure out what is going on. However, in March 2005, according to this post from Thought Balloons, Publishers Weekly got word that ADV had laid off about 25 employees from its manga division.
Company president John Ledford pointed to a saturated market and discerning customers as contributing factors. “Anyone can see that there’s only so much shelf space available to manga and to anime,” he told PW. “We’ve adjusted our schedule to keep pace with the opportunities for shelf space.”
The restructured manga unit will focus on publishing “winners,” according to Oarr, who said the company will release about 50 titles this year, down from about 80 in 2004.
It sounds to me like he read the market exactly wrong; sales are growing, shelf space is expanding, and ADV has a product that people actually want. Take a look at this thread on the ANN forums. People are beating down the door to get the next volume of Yotsuba&!, but ADV won’t sell it to them. What’s wrong with this picture?
Communication seems to be a big part of the problem. The ADV manga home page was last updated in September 2004. (The anime section does get more attention.) Yotsuba&! isn’t even listed. Their catalog only lists the first volume of Cromartie High School, arguably their hottest selling property, and that listing bears the discouraging words “sold out.” And unlike other publishers, who have spokespeople that answer the phone and even drop in on forums, ADV wouldn’t even talk to a reporter.
Are they trying to chase readers away? If so, they’re doing a good job. But if they’re trying to sell manga, well, time to try another tack. Like giving the customers what they want.