Pick a president, any president

October 11, 2012 in General, News

The four yearly festival of politics delivered by the American presidential election is in full swing and this time it is also bringing innovation from the US cartoonist Ann Telnaes.

Ann_Telnaes_PotusPick @procartoonists.org

© Ann Telnaes @ Procartoonists.org

Ann has made a purpose-built app for the duration of the campaign called Potuspick.com. For the record, Potus is the the abbreviation for President of the United States.

For this project Ann isn’t working with her regular employer at the Washington Post and is instead selling the bespoke animation app direct through the Apple iTunes store.

She kindly agreed to answer a few questions from us about it:

What size of readership are you going to need at 69p per app download?

My partner (Sara Thaves of the Cartoonist Group) doesn’t really have any expectation of making a profit.  I don’t know about the UK, but app development is still an expensive endeavour in the States.  It’s at the stage where developing websites were in the beginning; now of course one can create a website for practically nothing.  My intention was to explore another avenue for editorial cartooning, to create an interactive editorial cartoon.

Are you upping production for the duration of the campaign?

Since I use actual audio from Obama and Romney, it would be ideal  to keep adding audio as soon as it leaves their mouths, but because of the cost we have no plans to. Obviously this app only has a shelf life until November 6 [polling day].

Which tools do you use to animate?
I still hand draw my animation poses, hand ink, then colour in Photoshop.  I then use Flash for production work.
Ann added:
If any of your UK colleagues express an interest in wanting to do one of these types of apps, please have them talk to me first.  The whole process was a bumpy road, both from dealing with app developers (we had two) and the Apple approval process.
Given that younger readers get their news for the most part exclusively online, here is another platform for editorial cartoonists to consider.  I’d like to stress, though, that this is not a game – the app still reflects my point of view (as an editorial cartoon should).
If you would like to ask Ann a question please do so in the comments below, as she has promised to check in here and try to answer them.

8 responses to Pick a president, any president

  1. Hi Ann, Thanks for the offer to exchange information here.

    One, ok, two for starters, how much does the Apple ITunes store take in commission per transaction? And are there any other charges in doing business with them?
  2. Yes -second that Ann – many thanks. As Matt will confirm, I’m not app-ish, [and my PC’s made of wood] but am intrigued about securing payment for work which is exclusively on line

  3. Hello Matt and Bill- it’s a pleasure to talk with my British colleagues!  I lived in London for a short time in the mid 1980’s while I was still involved with the animation industry; absolutely loved my time there and have many fond memories.As for your question regarding Apple’s commission, I believe it’s 30%.  Too high, obviously- but you are getting the Apple name and access to the store.  There’s also the cost of registering as an Apple Developer ($99).

  4. And the Apple App developer fee is an annual one I think too.

    There’s a handy guide to the process here via Mashable
  5. Ann

    Am I too late?

    Power to your considerably talented elbows Ma’am. We (Matt, who is quietly “app-ish”, me, who is not, and a couple of pointy-heads) dipped our toes into the app world a couple of years ago. Well, my toes were entirely dry – the others did all the wet stuff, but they let me stay and watch. We met up in a house in Soho (apparently an ex-brothel) and spoke of the possibility of cartoonists making untold pots of gold via apps. Some guys from Colombia or Peru were hired. They spoke of technical things in Spanish and then apparently returned to Colombia. It was all rather exotic. 
    There, that was a pointless diversion wasn’t it? I don’t think there was a question. 
    I’m sure it’s the future, but surely only for those who already have a shedload of readers who might be willing to part with 69p in this content-for-free world?
    I’ll get my coat. 
  6. Thanks Andy, all good context but do you have a question for Ann about the how of doing this?

  7. Matt, as you know, I am all context and no trousers. 

    Well, I suppose I would like to know how you go about developing an app without technical Peruvians. [My language is flippant, but my point is serious]. 

    And how on earth do you get people to find your app and persuade them to part with cash for it? Is it feasible for someone – like the bulk of UK cartoonists – who doesn’t have a huge international following already to build an app for their work and reasonably expect anybody to ‘turn up’ and look at it? Surely the huge PR mountain of directing people to your app. The idea of being a creative agent, free of the editorial shackles of corporate/conservative editorial control, selling your gags direct to eager readers is intoxicating to cartoonists, but is it really a credible business model?
    Is it not true that – as Martin Rowson says – we are simply parasites who need hosts? Our old print media hosts (magazines and newspapers) are dying, but perhaps we need a new host (websites etc. with PR clout and a ready-made readership) to survive and would not be able to thrive in the hostile ecosystem outside our hosts. 
    PS I am a huge fan of your drawing, Ms T. Would you please sign this – it’s for my granddaughter. 
  8. Sorry for the delay in responding; was busy with the last (thank god) presidential debate.  If your question is can I guarantee that apps are a “credible business model” for editorial cartoons then my answer would have to be no- but that’s been the case for every path taken in my entire career. I can’t tell you how many times I was told what I was doing wasn’t going to get me anywhere (syndicates warning me they would never take on someone who wasn’t on staff at a newspaper, etc).   I’m merely looking for opportunities in this digital world that all editorial cartoonists will have to deal with, if we want people to see our work.  I do believe there are yet-unrealized platforms where we can apply our visual commentary; the trick is to find and sometimes, create the situations.  Steve Brodner, the extraordinary illustrator/satirist here in the States is an excellent example of this kind of innovation.  He’s also very inspiring; here’s a link to a panel he participated in during our recent convention in Washington, DC (he’s the first speaker): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OILjmaKh_0His website is also a great place to see the different ways he’s adapted:www.stevebrodner.com

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