Rich Johnston on Comic Writing and Building a Successful Blog

Rich Johnston is a comic writer and creator famous for Bleeding Cool, a blog that shares rumors, news, previews, interviews, and features related to the comics world. Before launching Bleeding Cool, Rich worked as a copywriter (while occasionally contributing columns on comics to others' publications). Since launching in 2009, Bleeding Cool has become one of Technorati's top ranking blogs in the entertainment, film, and comics categories and launched a print publication.

In the interview below, Rich shares how he came to be the world's premiere comics writer, the factors of Bleeding Cool's runaway success, the impact funding can have on a fledgling digital publication, and the secrets behind his wide network of sources and ability to get great scoops.

What tactics might one use to create, then dominate, a niche within the online or journalistic world much like you have?

Tactics make it sound like I planned any of this. I just saw a gap in treating comics like any other popular entertainment medium by gossiping about it. Didn't know that would turn into a career.

Would you have had less success as a comics writer if you did not also actively create comics? How important is active involvement in an industry to one who wishes to write on it with authority?

I like to dip my toes into writing comics to keep my head in the game and to empathise with people for whom this is a full career. It also gets a little respect, which helps. But only a little.

What factors have enabled Bleeding Cool to succeed when so many other blogs and digital publications have failed?

A sugar daddy in Avatar Press.

How important is it to get financial backing from a publisher or organization to launch a blog? What advantages has being funded by Avatar Press given to Bleeding Cool?

Well... A full time salary for two writers and part time salaries for others makes a big difference. I wouldn't be doing it otherwise. But launching a blog? Those are mostly done for free and then you wait and see...

What advice would you give to those seeking funding for digital publications they would like to launch?

Work in advertising for eighteen years and then lose your job. It works wonders.

What have you done to ensure that Bleeding Cool is a self-sustaining, financial success?

I tried to write compelling content to make the site a must-visit, combined with sensational/sensationalist headlines to draw traffic to the content, and assured William Christensen of Avatar that everything's going to be okay. He almost believes me now.

Also, launching a print magazine was a really great idea. Who knew? Well, Avatar did.

How have you built up your a robust network of sources over the years? What advice would you give to a writer who is starting from scratch?

Time. Longevity. Just hanging around and being inevitable. Do it for free/pennies for twenty years until someone pays you.

Beyond just getting sources, what is your secret to getting such great scoops?

Putting in the work. I work 16-18 hour days and much of it is just working out where stuff is and then pummeling the data into shape. Work harder and longer than anyone else, and then never reveal a source.