We were pleasantly surprised when Archie Comics introduced its first openly gay main character to the iconic Riverdale tradition, and the publisher has impressed us again with the news that all Archie titles will be released simultaneously in print and digital formats. That's right, starting April 1 all new Archie comics will be available for sale in iVerse's Archie app on the same day the print versions go on sale in comic book stores and elsewhere. Archie is the first major American comics publisher to make this change, which is among the most requested from digital comics customers. What's more, the digital versions of Archie books will be priced at $1.99, a full dollar cheaper than most print editions, which sets Archie and iVerse even further ahead of the competition, who've tended to price day-and-date digital comics at $3.99 or more.

"Archie is an icon that's recognized and read around the world," said Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater in a post to the publisher's official blog. "It's our goal to make Archie's stories and those of his friends available to everyone and anyone that's interested in his adventures. Digital provides us with the tools to reach out to a whole new readership, and we're excited and emboldened by the opportunities going day-and-date line-wide presents. This is an exciting day for Archie and the comic book industry."

As we discussed in our rundown of the biggest comics news stories of 2010, the seemingly safe and conservative publisher of good ol' Americana has emerged in the new decade as a decidedly progressive force in the industry. Having made Archie Comics something to be reckoned with, Goldwater is obviously someone we needed to talk to about these recent developments. Check after the jump for the Archie leader's thoughts on making the decision to go same-day digital, and his remarks on what it means for traditional retailers.ComicsAlliance: There has been trepidation from some comics publishers about making the jump to day-and-date releases. Did you have concerns about how this would affect print sales, and have you talked with retailers about it?

Jon Goldwater: We're continually in touch with and value our partners in the direct market -- this is something we decided to do after a lot of consideration and analysis. After seeing the numbers come in from our standalone digital app, we knew there was a strong and fervent Archie fan base that was interested in seeing more content digitally. Think about it -- by the end of 2010, we saw close to 2 million downloads of our standalone iVerse app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch. That's impressive.

So, it became a question of, how can we best serve the digital reader? Because we see it as two different kinds of buyers: There's our core market, the fan that wants the comic in their hands and then there's the digital reader who likes the convenience of buying something on their mobile device or iPad. We have always been proactive and forward-looking when it comes to digital. We were the first company to launch a standalone app and we're proud to be the first company to go day-and-date digitally with our titles. It's about making your content available to as many people as possible. Because, let's face it - not everyone has a comic shop nearby. So, we have to find a way to serve those readers too, and serve them with the latest and best content we have.

As far as concerns -- none, really. Like I said, we're always looking for ways to reach new readers, and this is a major initiative for us. I think you have to really explore every avenue when it comes to getting books in front of people, and we've made a point of being at the forefront of the digital marketplace. We're not sitting back and watching what others do first. Quite the opposite.

CA: How did you decide upon $1.99 as opposed to the higher or lower digital price points of other publishers?

JG: $1.99 seems to be the sweet spot for day-and-date books -- charging the same as the print cover price seemed a bit unfair, since you're not walking away with a copy in your hand. We consulted with our colleagues at iVerse, who created the Archie Comics app and researched the market. From what the numbers show us, digital comic buyers are OK with that price point. So, yes, that'll be the price point for day-and-date single issues.

CA: Archie Comics has released several digital-exclusive stories over the past year. Will that initiative continue in light of a line-wide same-day digital schedule?

JG: If anything, it's going to increase. People have responded very well to our digital exclusive content and we plan on doing more in 2011. We'll be launching digital exclusive Reggie and Me stories, for one, and a number of new, digital-only initiatives in the coming months.

CA: Has Archie considered digital subscriptions for any of its titles, or bundled digital comics that function like trade paperback collections?

JG: It's something we've considered, and like anything else, we're exploring it. No final word on that yet, though.

CA: How do you think a same-day digital publishing initiative might affect the way you approach creating comics?

JG: The approach remains the same as when I first got to Archie 20 months ago: to tell entertaining, compelling and fun stories that are relevant and true to these iconic characters. While the method with which we express and deliver these stories can and will change, we have to continue to strive to tell stories that get people excited and interested about these characters. That's the constant for Archie Comics.

CA: What are you hoping that digital distribution will do for the Archie Comics line that print sales in traditional comic shops hasn't done?

JG: It's not an either/or scenario. We see digital as a way to make Archie Comics as available as possible to as many people as we can. We don't want people to feel limited in their buying habits because of X or Y. If you like our comics in print form - our core market which we will continue to support and expand - then that's an option. If you prefer downloading comics to your mobile device or iPad, then that's available as well. We want to be the industry leader in regards to digital. We want to explore this medium and see what it has to offer comic books, fans, creators and beyond. It's an exciting time for Archie, and we're really excited to be at the forefront of things by continuing to engage the digital marketplace.

CA: So far Archie's iVerse apps have been rooted primarily to Apple products like the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. How do you think the expansion of the iPhone to Verizon might expand reader access to Archie's digital content?

JG: Great question. The expansion to Verizon is going to be huge for Apple and its product, and we're hoping it brings our comics to as many new readers as possible through our iVerse app. Additionally, we're continuing to expand digitally - we'll be launching an Android app in March and have a few other major announcements in the pipeline.

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