I have had this discussion with numerous people all the time and the last couple of years have seen so overall increase in sales numbers (pure $$ generated), but are monthly comics really a viable artform or are we just circling the drain?
All printed media has taken hits, CD sales have taken a nosedive and I'll willing to guess DVD sales are not what they used to be for many movies. The internet and the massive amount of free content has reduced the demand for many things.
Monthly comics have taken some dramatic hits also. The 10 year numbers are pretty damn strong evidence that those of us buying the monthly comics are that last ones left standing. In 1997 (according to CBG) the sales numbers for books #25, #50, #75 and #100 for February 1997 were 70,300, 45,800, 35,100 & 27,300. 10 years later the same sales numbers for those books were 62,780, 36,529, 25,582 and 21,570 respectively. Those are decreases of 10%, 20%, 27% and 21% respectively.
Those are really horrible numbers. Now all of these numbers are based on the direct market and the trade sale via Barnes and Noble, Amazon and other outlets are not covered by these numbers. Also the real money for comic come from the marketing of the brands via movies and other branding of toys, video games and clothing. The comic books are lost leaders in a sense and the reason for publishing some books are tied more to copyright needs and other contractual arrangements versus actual sales figures.
Still I just really wonder how much longer we can stem the tide of the end of of this industry. I believe the graphic novel will continue to exist (Magna proves you can have sales that are still strong), it is just in what format.
It is also sad to realize that our favorite books may only be enjoyed by a few others (50,000 is .02% of the US population). How marginalized can we be? The good news is that with the advancing of technology at $3 or $4 a book it can still be profitable to produce a magazine that has guaranteed sales, but how long will a corporation continue to fund a product that has such a small market segment. If I have talented people wasting their efforts against .02% of the population it is really just pissing money away.
Still at least remember if you drop a title you are actually having an impact in this type of market place, where with most places, Wal-Mart won't notice you have stopped buying from them to protest them for some reason.
I just hope the market continues to survive as I have enjoyed this method of entertaining too long and would miss it if it dies before I do. At least I'll finally have time to read all the trades and hard covers I have accumulated.
As a side note I also believe that 50% of the community has blogs or "reports" on the industry, but we have very few people who really report of examine our industry.