Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Pump 'N Sudz' Drives Web Visits

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

'Pump 'N Sudz' Drives Web Visits

Article excerpt

Minneapolis 'Star Tribune' site tests animated comic

The Minneapolis Star Tribune recently conducted a three-month test of a weekly animated comic strip on its Web site.

The paper partnered with St. Paul-based Visionpoint Communications to offer 12 two-minute episodes of "Pump 'N Sudz," accompanied by a weekly teaser panel on page A2 driving readers to the site (http://www.star tribune.com).

"We've been interested for a long time in experimenting with new things," said Robert Schafer, the Star Tribune's director of online strategy. "We were looking for ways to introduce interactivity. [The 'Pump 'N Sudz' pitch video] was very funny. We knew it would be limited to people with higher bandwidth, but we were interested."

"Pump 'N Sudz," created by Visionpoint President Fred McGrath, is set at a combination gas station/cable TV studio in fictional Murdo, Minn. It began with a local slant, including frequent visits from Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, but became more national in scope after five or six episodes.

More than 10,000 users downloaded the premiere, while the subsequent 11 segments generated between 2,000 and 5,000 downloads apiece. The first few episodes spurred 100 feedback messages, with positive responses outnumbering negative 2-to-1.

"Lots of people said they had never seen anything quite like it on the Web," Schafer reported. "It's a type of humor that's not liked by everyone. But most people appreciated the effort it took to put something new on the site."

Posted comments ranged from "I agree that an online comic strip is a good idea, but this one is lame" to "'Pump 'N Sudz' was an unadvertised work of comic genius! …

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