Friday, June 24, 2011

Garage Kit Renaissance: MakerBot opens a window into otaku merchandise

A look at the Good Bad & Ugly of Santa Claus Machines in the anime landscape;

Properties too obscure to justify any mass-production merchandise are now the potential cash cow of a new global market

MakerBot (recently featured on The Colbert Report) isn't the first Santa Claus Machine to exist out there in the great big world, but with its high level of public accessibility (the low price and small size) and its support via the Thingiverse community of design, it is the first device of its kind to seriously exploit avenues of application that go far beyond engineering; applications like character goods and branded merchandise. Where once it would have been 99 different kinds of impossible for a small company to make a 1/10 statue of an obscure manga or anime character, you yourself as a consumer now have the ability to make it right in your own living room with the likes of MakerBot. Anime and manga characters and properties too obscure to justify any mass production of merchandise are now the potential cash cow of a new global market for Japanese pop-culture goods, with no in-process time, and no costly global distribution network, served only by software and JIT end-user manufacturing.

Anyone who has followed this blog knows I usually come down on the side of rights-holders when it comes to technology that can be used to proliferate media. But that doesn't mean I am touting MakerBot as some destroyer of worlds for the Japanese animation and Asian pop-culture character goods and branded merchandise market. This development has some great potential for forwarding the progress of fandom while contributing to the health of creative companies as well (how often does THAT happen?).

The Good:
D&D applications aside, you can't tell me that as an anime fan you never wanted to see figures made of characters which you like, but Kaiyodo never made them because the only people in the world who would buy them were you and 2 other guys. This has been a major imbalance in the otaku world for a while; Anime otaku demand some of the highest quality and detail in the figures they purchase, but that has pushed production costs through the roof, ensuring that companies would take very careful studies of how many they could expect to sell before jumping into production thereby choosing only the highest of high-profile character licenses. The result was a limited market with low profitability, and the subsequent evolution of the Garage Kit. G-Kits were an interesting thing, and one could easily tell if you were getting a real licensed production or a bootleg knockoff made in some shady Hong Kong warehouse somewhere. I still have a bunch of my old G-kits, and their appeal was that you not only had access to characters that were relatively rare, but the customization levels started with painting options and progressed (via skill level) to changing poses with acetylene torches, sanding, or pinning on other parts. Their availability was limited, they were tough to track down and if you were going to make them from scratch involved some nasty chemicals.

Characters from different universes can now be put together in ways never before possible outside of a professional sculpting studio

Like digital video opened a new universe of fan-subbing, MakerBot is going to change otaku culture on a quantum level. Now, you can get hyper-creative with not only the design of any figure, but also in terms of characters crossing intellectual property lines. Characters from different universes can now be put together in ways never before possible outside a professional sculpting studio. Ranma in a StarFleet uniform? Not a problem. Vegeta punching out Spider-Man? Easy peasy. The mechs from Macross and Gundam having dirty dirty robot sex? Hell, that's probably half rendered by now. The creativity offered by this design software will allow for unique character goods to be made by the end-user, who will have a willingness to pay if it means they can get exactly what they want. Part of the fun with G-kits was also that you could paint them differently from their original designs (unlike PVC), and one of the best ever was a one of a kind setup we sold at Anime Crash, which consisted of 2 of the same Rei Ayanami figures (16 inches, standing, original white plugsuit w/ longinus spear) where one was painted normal and the other was painted photo-negative. It was awesome and the set sold for $1,000.

See, someone actually already thought of that... don't click on it.

Characters that would have been too costly to manufacture merchandise out of due to limited demand can now have digital blueprints made and sold to key consumers on a global scale, allowing them to purchase and then manufacture what they want. The overhead for a company selling these would stop at the fixed costs of design, with no variable costs what so ever. Even brick & mortar retailers can stop worrying about inventory issues for these pieces, when they can simply create products on-demand without ever dealing with over-stock and the associated shipping and storage costs. "Limited Edition" and "Sold Out" in terms of these figures and other types of merchandise will become terminology of the past.

The flurry of change doesn't stop with just animation and comic properties becoming more available as figures, but will also effect independent artists and creators who will now have access to a global market for their figures by skipping the cost-prohibitive stages of production and distribution, going straight from design to sale. As this technology develops and machines which can produce multi-color products become more prevalent (they exist from other technology companies but are very expensive), many of the barriers to entry which existed in the character-goods/figure/merch market will cease to exist. Waste and the cost of doing business will no longer keep creative artworks from being made available to the public. Just think of the money to be saved on shipping alone.

What would have been one single unique figure now millions of potential pieces

The Bad:
Just like with Garage Kits it's a nebulous area when it comes to what this means for intellectual property rights. Sculpting a figure of your favorite character out of whatever material yourself, and putting it on your shelf doesn't technically violate a copyright, but that won't stop a company from interpreting that as a lost sale and hating you for it. This was never a problem because the time effort and skill to do this were only possessed by so few people that it didn't dent their customer base. With this new technology, we're getting closer to that event horizon tipping point. Although to properly design a dynamic character figure as a digital blueprint for the MakerBot would still take an insane amount of skill and time, the current dynamics of technology make things much more impacting. What would have been one single unique figure for the garage kit maker upon finishing is now millions of potential pieces in the new digital form thanks to the ability to transfer/copy files across the globe in seconds. A one time sale of an anime garage kit for $3,000 at an auction somewhere... companies don't bat an eye. But a MakerBot design of that same figure that's downloaded 1,000,000 times across the globe over 6 months? That's a big deal, and the rights holder is going to feel screwed.

Hypothetical situation to help you better understand how this is straight up bootlegging: You take one of these things to an anime convention and start producing made-to-order figures or merchandise (cups, rings, toilet paper holder, whatever) featuring popular characters. Congratulations, you're breaking all kinds of copyright law and are gonna get sued. The Artist Alley operates in a quasi legal space due to selling things at very low volume and combining original characters into their offerings. Here's another way to think about it: If you had some OEM factory make a bunch of Pokemon figures and then hauled them somewhere and sold them, you'd be a bootlegger. The fact that now the factory is in some little box on a table filling single orders doesn't change that. Small retailers who live day by day, and who can barely make their rent payments are going to abuse the hell out of this, and stopping them from the outside is going to be quite difficult.

Now, combine this issue with the possibility that these devices will proliferate to something like 1 in 20 American households (less than Netflix proliferation), and you're dealing with another huge problem all together: Software piracy. Think about it, the utopian era of zero inventory and no shipping costs for retailers is going to rely on the ability of patent and copyright holders to control who gets the digital blueprints that these machines use to make stuff. Without an airtight iTunes-style network where these designs can be properly sold, licensed, and distributed by their owners and monetized accordingly, the internet is going to become a free-for-all where protected IP would stand no chance. Need a specific tool made right now which is patented by not-you? Just torrent that design and no one will ever know. Maybe you're a Ctrl+Alt+Del fan (really?); Just download that design for that awesome figure in that awesome action-pose that some fan made and put on the internet, and you'll have a great product based off of characters that will never send even a fraction of a penny to their original creators.

Her baby dun got bootlegged down to Peru.

the easier you make the legitimate distribution channel... the more people will gladly become paying customers

Moderate DRM, first mover advantages, and proprietary software/materials are going to be useful tools and strategies to combat this problem, but the number-one way to limit this kind of potential IP anarchy is to set up very strong barriers of convenience. What's that you ask? Netflix and iTunes work because going and torrenting that shit is too much trouble for enough people, and the result is that a stable customer base is created. Constantly changing code, or requiring that these machines use cloud computing to function properly is only one side of the coin. The more important side is; the easier you make the legitimate distribution channel to use compared to any alternative, the more people will gladly become paying customers.

The Ugly:

Yeah, weirdos who get a boner for a blow-hole are still out there

So you've come up with a 3D design that is of a 4 breasted Sailor Moon performing fellatio on a Totoro while he gives a rim-job to Inu Yasha and Sasuke as they kiss each other... the furry version! Oh, those furries... you almost forgot about them in all this mess didn't you? Yeah, weirdos who get a boner for a blow-hole are still out there, and they have enough cash and enough computer skills to make something like that a reality. So think of every possible pop-culture piece you could make with this thing, -and- now come to terms with the fact that there will be an X-rated furry version made out of literally everything you just thought up, where Kirk is like, an Ocelot or something. This is section is going to trudge into some nasty territory for marketing people looking to protect their brands as well as enter the arena of establishing real legal precedents in American law.

From a marketing standpoint, if you work for Ghibli and come across something like the above mentioned, you're going to want to smash it into the machine that made it, and then smash that machine over the head of the freak who designed it. But, unless this person is selling/distributing that piece/it's design or charging others to come see it, there is no legal recourse in the USA that you can realistically expect to take. If he carved the thing out of wood or made it as a sand-castle or ice-sculpture it wouldn't break the law, so without legislation specifically regulating the use of "replication machinery" (a term that has yet to be legally defined) there's nothing a rights-holder could legally do. The only legal issues in such a case would be in regards to distribution of obscene material if that raunchy sand-castle was in full view of the general public. But I'm pretty sure the Skunk-Fuckers* wouldn't be quick to display that kind of thing in their front window. ...hopefully. (* Link is not to actual skunk fucking or the fucking of skunks).

Laws applying to this machine and its capabilities in terms of subject matter are likely to be ineffective even if they are drafted into legislation, as the obstacles to making them realistically enforceable, are A) If the US constitution protects your ability to make anything you want from a block of wood with a chisel, then it also protects the same ability to do so via plastic and this machine, and B) it would require a government agency to monitor what you make on these things in your own home, bringing up some Supreme Court level privacy issues (well, any few that are left thanks to George W. Obama's extension of the Patriot Act).

Now, imagine something worse. The kind of stuff that would go far beyond what got Christopher Handley into trouble. I've always had a problem with the notion that drawn, sculpted, or otherwise fictitious depiction of something illegal is the same as a photo or video of the actual thing happening itself. So if someone uses this machine to make some pretty nasty stuff, we might see more court cases involving the notion of art as protected speech.

The fact of the matter is, that once some weirdo gets a hold of this thing, we're bound to see some crazy fucked up shit at some point. But the same thing happened with the internet, and even with Rule 34, the world didn't end. The kinds of people who are going to make the nasty stuff are probably not going to have that many people over to see it. They're gonna be messed up anyway with or without this machine, so let's just take it as a side-effect that is bound to happen.

The proliferation of MakerBot and machines like it is going to happen and that's that. If anyone should freak out about it, it's Wal-Mart, everyone in China, and UPS. Like any emerging technology, it's going to take use by early adopters to determine how it will develop as a part of modern life. I want one myself, just so I can make my own personalized coasters and poker chips.

the Japanese company doesn't see a whole lot of $5 sales where none existed before, they see a whole lot of $25 losses

I worry about Japanese companies accepting this as a viable channel for the global sale of character goods. They're not going to. They tend to measure loss in such a way as to simply create unrealistic pictures of how markets operate. If, for example; "Character A" has a figure out there in stores and that figure sells for $30, and "Character B" doesn't have a figure because B isn't very popular, but then this machine comes along and the digital blueprints for figure B sell for $5 each; the Japanese company doesn't see a whole bunch of $5 sales where none existed before, they see a whole lot of $25 losses because that's what the price difference was. Never mind the fact that Character B was never going to get a figure otherwise, or that the sales are profit-generating since there was no overhead... it's going to be felt as a loss, no matter how loudly the math says otherwise. Video and book publishers have a tendency to see one torrent or download as one lost DVD sale, and miss out on other opportunities because the square peg of their product marketing doesn't fit into the little round holes of niche markets (though sometimes this is out of their control due to the high costs of reaching those smaller markets). Changing the thought process of the right decision makers could prove to be a very tough task.

There is an episode of Oedo Rocket where the characters find out that a play they put on has been surreptitiously recorded and posted to a youtube-type website. It's an anime inside joke and they feel a sense of loss and violation, and to an extent that's totally justified; people who didn't buy a ticket are seeing this and all that. But what escapes this mentality, is that now people who never could have possibly bought a ticket due to geographic distance now have access to this material -- and a portion of that group will be willing to buy it as a product. While that youtube example can't show an effective example of this monetizing process, the MakerBot is probably the closest thing yet to making that an achievable business model.

I'm working on the proforma now, so if anyone is interested in a micro venture-cap raise for an idea involving this (my idea, it's awesome), let me know.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Failure to Deliver: Duke Nukem Forever PR debacle hilights the rift between industry and fans.

When companies are out of touch: In PR, you're not supposed to get what you pay for.

All out of bubblegum.

The saga of Duke Nukem Forever is a tragedy. If it had simply never been made, and remained an unreachable dream composed of the collective musings of what might have been, it would have been a beautiful tragedy. However the fact that the game was actually made, released, and has invaded the imaginary notions of what Duke Nukem Forever would be. Notions that had built up for over a decade, makes it an ugly spectacle. A crime against nature, a product that was taken too far by someone who was not stopped in time, and now flails around the market place grasping at any source of revenue with its deformed limbs.We all remember that sinking feeling we got when we first saw JarJar show up in Star Wars I-III, and the disappointment of Axel's Chinese Democracy. Like those over-awaited things, Duke Nukem Forever had an impossible task before it, a task that wasn't always impossible, but had become so via circumstances created by egomaniacal managers who chose their own subjective reality over real reality, and were too rich and insulated to be told otherwise by outside observers. A perfect situation to trap the game in development hell for a long enough time for our imaginations to conjure up something so fantastical (or maybe fan-testical) as to be unrealistic in terms of being realistically achievable. It could do nothing but fail as a game to live up to expectations, and yet chose to go ahead and fail anyway.

If you spent a serious portion of your life actually working on Duke Nukem Forever, this realization may cause some distress. The main nucleus of this distress, is that a negative (or at the very least lackluster) reaction of independent media, grassroots ratings, and consumer communities, creates an intense sense of loss. Loss (or even potential loss) is one of the bigger psychological factors in motivation (see; organizational behavior), and it tends to be amplified when the object of that loss is partially intangible, which leads to overestimation of what is actually the subject of such loss. But you accept that in the media business. You know that the mystical intersecting point of pleasing "all of the people all of the time" is like some quantum dimension which only exists on the pages of theoretical calculations and therefore it is unattainable. You know and accept this risk as part of what makes PR and the creative entertainment industry function.

Invasion of the finance majors:

Colleges are churning out brand new business majors even as Lehman Bros. and Bear Sterns vomit the old ones back into the job market. They have to go somewhere. When you realize that these people might be finance majors, the nonsensical behavior of PR firm The Redner Group all of a sudden becomes very clear. Thanks to "consultant addiction" all American businesses have come to see even the most skilled labor as disposable, corp. structure is constantly reformulated for short-term gains, and non-core activities are outsourced to an infinitely expanded professional service market where the "invisible hand of the market" keeps prices low, and employee turnover dangerously high. Although for all I know Redner Group is just 3 guys in a closet in Santa Monica.

Here we have a firm that does PR, and like most modern service firms, is probably dysfunctional from on over-concentration on maximizing short-term goals. The Redner Group sees their activity not as traditional PR, but as something closer to investment banking. They work hard and expend resources, and expect a positive return on that investment. They approach their task as if they were a customer, doing nothing more than buying exposure designed to increase unit sales and brand awareness (and brand equity can be monetized with the right kind of powerpoint presentation). The Redner Group spent money paying its employees and maintaining a distribution database and network for early review copies of Duke Nukem Forever. They don't see this activity as PR, subject to intangible market mechanics and the basics of journalism, but rather they see their efforts as a creation of a financial instrument, backed by a formula based on the resulting discount rate from their activities producing a specific IRR coming from expected unit sales as a function of exposure & reviews. To put it over-explicitly; In the mind of The Redner Group, they are a paying customer of video game media, and they expect specific results which further their goals.

irr can get complicated.

Sidestepping for the moment that this is the wrong way to approach PR; The Redner Group's reaction is normal for an entity with such a mind-set when confronted with such a situation. To add general context: If you went to an auto shop to have your muffler fixed, and they did a shitty job, you wouldn't go back there for an oil change - not as an act of retaliation (that's what lawyers are for), but simply because you want a certain thing and they didn't provide it when you paid them. This is how The Redner Group has approached their function as a 3rd party provider of PR for an entertainment product. This is a terrible thing to do, and it's exactly how you lose clients. Generating press doesn't work like that because game reviewers and other media are not service providers. The implied obligation to help sales of the game was simply a function of The Redner Group's imagination. The twitter threats they issued are unmistakable evidence that there was a fundamental failure to realize that. The implication of entitlement from investment is so apparent here, that it can send no other message that The Redner Group sees media entities and grassroots gaming communities as nothing more than vending machines for advertising metrics. They put in their dollar and pushed the button, but when the wrong item came out, they felt cheated... they felt a sense of loss, and reacted emotionally. The crux of the matter is not that they shouldn't have acted emotionally, it is that they should never have felt that sense of loss in the first place.

Ironically, 2K Games (the company with the most to "lose" in a situation such as this, because of the emotional connection to a lot of hard work that went into making the thing) has not fallen into such a mental trap. This is most likely because games are their business, and they are well aware of how the market works, including the things you should and should not do. I do hope 2K's decision to drop The Redner Group is a permanent one. Old dogs, new tricks, yada yada ...they won't learn. But that leaves the "outsourcing" problem to deal with. A company like 2K Games hiring a full-time PR staff is kind of wasteful when you use those "consultant addiction" formulas of figuring out how much it ends up costing per release. But when you go out and hire outside firms to promote your releases, you risk losing out on access to loyal workers who have built up substantial experience into an arsenal of tacit skills that are simply non-transferable to just anyone.

The solution is that creative companies like 2K and others, need to create the executive position of "Product-Ronin." Kind of a Product Manager on steroids that goes into total immersion at the 3rd party facility. This is one very experienced person who physically supervises and contributes to operations that are outsourced to 3rd party service providers. 1 marketing person from 2K who knows the game industry well, could have stopped this mess before it happened. 1 pro who knows the anime market in the US could have stopped many a terrible dub before it ever got made. 1 person with an alternative perspective could have pointed out that the artistic subtlety in your design goes away when you put this ad on a giant billboard outside:

Oh, no one's gonna have a problem with that image... it's so edgy.

The job of the Product Ronin, is to frequently leave the confines of the home offices and immerse themselves in whatever major 3rd party services that the company is using, and use their tacit-skill set and experience to stop stupid shit from happening. Creative media and entertainment companies need to create this position, and fill it with a trusted, long-time, well compensated employee. Smart service companies will accommodate them and benefit from the experience and knowledge they create there, which they can use to better serve their clients and manage their operations. Dumb ones will think they do a good enough job already.

On a completely different subject; the fading away of Duke Nukem can be seen as kind of a metaphor for the "old world" of male dominated misogynist type gaming dying out and a new global game world where things are quite different. Go talk about that if thinking about turning a brand equity formula into something that produces IRR gives you a headache. ...I know it does with me.


Housekeeping Items:
#1) New Format: As you can see, we're including pull-quotes here and that will be the standard from now on. Additionally, some older articles may be retro-fitted with them, as to lessen the tl;dr factor. If you don't know what tl;dr means, then you fail the internet.

#2) Friday is the new Monday. Posts will now go up on Fridays. Their frequency is still being decided between weekly and bi-weekly.

#3) The final post of each month will be a review of something (except this month where it will probably be July 1). The subject of the review may range from film & television, to video games, books, food & drink, or even special events and travel venues. This is open to suggestions.

#4) This blog has always been link-free and anything here can be reproduced in whole or in part in any non-commercial entity.

#5) I haz a twitter. @The_Angry_Otaku

That's all... for now.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Where do we go from here: Manga consumption in a paperless world.


Omens, Portents, Forewarnings. Never are they understood objectively until after the fact. Such are the oddities and anomalies that are being observed in the development of the evolution of paperless media products. From novels to fine art, technology makes physical distribution a nonexistent entity in a market where consumption occurs via network service. As pointed out in a recent article in Forbes Magazine, the constraints of capital are now quick to lose almost all stature as barriers to entry into “publishing” as we know it. As with many historical examples, resistance to change by the large incumbents force younger more nimble companies to spearhead their own initiatives, making little progress in terms of effecting macro changes. A small label like Media Blasters could never hope to spearhead a new format such as Blu-Ray but could reap the benefits of such an option being available.

While a fan at the NBA Finals may feel very connected to the game as they sit in their ring-side seats, the reality is that their presence makes no difference to the outcome, because if it did, they themselves would be on the court, directly participating. Such is the case with manga in the USA. All the whining and bellyaching about how the “industry” is run by “old men” being the problem, fail to take this into account.

These new formats, as emergent technology, are currently generating dictionaries worth of new contract law terminology and changing the very structure of binding agreements in licensing. To expect Manga to take the lead in such efforts is seriously overestimating the ability of licensors and publishers like Vertical to literally lead a multi billion dollar industry by the nose with their initiatives. Impossible and foolish come to mind when thinking of it that way. Small airlines don't build their own airports, pro-golfers don't build golf courses, tire companies don't build roads. Publishing companies (smaller ones at least ) cant be expected to create dominant proprietary formats for digital media consumption... do they have a whole lab in the back that we didn't notice until now? Nor can these companies be reasonably expected to take what is a substantial risk in paying for a license of a digital format which may or may not generate revenue, while at the same time taking time and money away from their current print format (people can't work on 2 things at once).

The effect on revenue that scanlations have is devastating, and if you think it’s not, you don’t know how this works. The cost of the license itself or even (proper) localization is huge, and that license being stolen by the scanlators, who take that property and put it into the market means that recouping the staggeringly expensive process of putting out a printed manga and distributing it for sell-through revenue at net terms, becomes impossible.

Enter the Kindle or some iPad/Droid app or whatever is going to become dominant, and you have the magical cure for sell-through for struggling publishers. Retailers hate this, because they take advantage of returns to the point where they would gladly put a label out of business if it means they can gain any points in the next quarter. The accounting difference between inventory and in-process inventory is huge for a retailer. So, if publishers never had to print another page again and continue business as usual, they would see it as the best thing since Gutenberg.

There’s a snag there. Did you catch it? “Business as usual.” These formats require new legal contract terminology, half of which doesn’t exist yet, channels and accepted formats that have yet to materialize, and a new set of barriers to entry. That last one is important, since all you have to do is look at youtube, podcasts, or deviantart to realize what would happen to publishing if there were no barriers to entry. Look how hard it is to wade through the seas of truly terrible productions to find ones that have not only genuine talent behind them, but (more importantly) the resources to be consistent, on-time, and well presented. A publishing marketplace where there is no macro-flow of customers towards legitimate works means that the shittiest fanfic abominations would stand at equal level with professional works by professional writers in terms of market presence and availability. Barriers to entry in the media entertainment business keep out a vast amount of crap that would otherwise choke the channels of product awareness and necessary marketing. There's a reason FurNation Press never got it's SKUs into Barnes & Noble (or Diamond for that matter)... so do you really want to have to look at 5 deranged versions of Halo where everyone is a gay ocelot before you get to something by the next Neil Gaiman? With no financial risk what so ever, anyone can publish anything, which is not really a good thing.

In order to jump the last chasm of adoption, these new products and formats must be one thing over all else. More convenient than any alternative, including whatever is happening now. Look at the electric car: Even if electricity was free and the range was the same, the 30 minute charge time vs/ a 90 second fill-up time for a gas engine creates such a Reverse Value Ratio (yes RVR is a real formula), that people still would not adopt electric cars because... seriously, fuck 30 minutes.

There are always multiple ways around this issue. If you can’t speed up the time, electric cars could partner with every free commercial parking space around, so that the 30 min charge now happens when you’re at Wal-Mart or wherever and so you don’t notice that 30 min because it’s no longer a dedicated use of time (ie “they were gonna be parked there anyway” so no big deal). We’re close to finding the necessary “anyway” for manga.

This is a good sign:

From the Sandvine Global Internet Phenomena Report for Spring 2011 (p 6), you can see that Netflix (a single media company) is producing a bigger footprint than torrenting anything. Although the true total average difference is 1%, the fact that this even is happening is a pinhole snapshot of this tenant of Consumer Behavior ringing true. The path of least resistance is going to be a legit commercial one, and that’s going to win the day if it can continue increasing the convenience factor. Netflix is dependable, faster, easier, and an acceptable cost (they have higher than break even WTP). That’s not true for every consumer in America, but it’s true for enough people to get that company into the positive side of market equilibrium.

It shows that it's not all about getting it "for free" ...rather it's about getting it "easy" - which is not (always) the same. Additionally, with the high amount of intense social gamification behavior indicative of the manga/anime market, it's also about getting it "first." This "path of least resistance" in marketing goes for any kind of business, and the different degrees on the scale of decision making are unique to each market. The American manga market is indeed a unique mix of ingredients that make up these "tipping point" degrees between consumption via torrent or consumption via service. Those specifics will have to wait for another time.

And before anyone wants to get technical about “BitTorrent” nomenclature:
That’s on p. 12

Mobile access is another big indicator. I like to look at the Baltic States and Scandinavia for wireless usage info, but I don’t have that handy so here is South America:
Sandvine p 12

That bump in Sept 2010 is probably a result of the ruckus over the Chilean miners, but real-time entertainment and web-browsing can get mashed together when you think about marketing factors that have to do with the possibility of consuming manga (legally) via wireless device. This means that as a dominant format emerges, and non-paper manga is available at a reasonable cost to access, digital device manga will be a viable product, even if the rate of piracy through scanlation remains the same as it is now. The disappearance of physical media will drop the costs of doing business to a level where publishers will actually be able to operate properly, despite the damage done by piracy. This is currently how big publishers and big Hollywood have been able to stay around despite piracy (and terrible titles); make enough successful properties to carry the others. But that type of arbitrage activity in today’s media markets which still require manufacture and distribution of physical products (books, DVDs) requires levels of capital well out of reach for the few remaining US manga publishers.

This means the charge for digital media is going to be led by bigger players like Comcast, NCAA, WSJ, AOL-HUFFPO, Fox News, NY Times, and other companies that fart more money in a day than a company like Funimation sees in a decade. So until these channels solidify, being in the manga business in the USA isn’t exactly a peachy place to be. Despite a rosy looking future in terms of generalities, we’re still a ways away from being able to pop the cork on the Champaign. Right now, the publishing industry is about to enter a state where it will look like a lava-lamp in a paint mixer. Things are going to get shaken up and it will take a while for elements to separate and form the shapes of this segment of the new media horizon. Manga will be there. Paper won’t.

Make no mistake, from otaku demographics to creative tastes, there are still many factors that I have not addressed, but they aren't here because we're looking at the big picture of publishing as a business, to which manga is only a small part of... and you've had to read too many words already.