Internet trends: marketing research & predictions

What happened to Dilbert?

January 27th, 2008 by


As our game 1 stated – Alexa trend showed Dilbert gradually lost traffic to other comic strips like XKCD & Penny Arcade during 2007.


Is Dilbert really losing popularity?
Nothing can teach us better than users’ direct arguments on this issue. We addressed this question on relevant forums to receive the natural reactions from those who have prior knowledge and acquaintance with comic brands.

We thereby analyzed the comments received (and there were surprisingly a lot!) into four parameters of popularity, as it was reflected from the arguments suggested for and against Dilbert and its competitors. The arguments on the table below reflect the general opinions presented.

XKCD & Others
Offline & Online
Humor Style
Office humor
Geeks & gaming humor
Brand Image
Dilbert is an Idol
Fan followers
Quality of Content
Repetitive, lacks innovation, tiring
Exciting new materials

Dilbert versus online comics: analysis of content (see the actual quotes as appeared on the forums)

1. Humor style: Almost two decades ago in 1989, Scott Adams captured the follies in the workplace with his cartoon strip Dilbert. After initial experimentation with various strips on relationships, air travel, foreign countries, and many other areas – Scott eventually switched to “formulaic office humor ” over and again.

” XKCD is very geared towards ‘geeks’. Geeks which spend a lot of time on the Internet. Dilbert on the other hand is “

2. Quality of content: On a changing environment, comic strip needs to adapt, change & reinvent themselves. What people seek in web comic strips are primarily novelty, variety & non -repetitiveness.

” All comics go through highs & lows and everyone’s looking for the next new think to get into. It makes for a more interesting market though. “

” It’s because Dilbert’s been around for a long time ,and is now starting to fall back on telling the same jokes again & again. “

Dilbert strips due to obsessive focus on “office humor” ran short of original ideas & started waning. In contrast late entrants like Penny Arcade and Ctrl-Alt-Del rightly captured the needs of dynamic market, generated their ideas from video games and kept feeding their users with new material. Unlike Dilbert, XKCD approached “geeks” & became instantly popular among them.

” XKCD is about geekdom and its difficult for anyone non-geek to understand what is going on. “

3. Availability & distribution media : Copyrighted Dilbert rocks mostly in the newspaper, books ,stationery & trade pubs. Its web contents are syndicated on and host of other publications. Hence reach for Dilbert is substantial without a majority actually visiting

” The Houston Chronicle has a daily subscription base over 2,000,000 readers.I’m not sure of the exact statistics,but I believe the vast majority of newspaper readers cite the comics page in top five of their priorities,so let’s be conservative and say that 75% of the Houston’s readership hits the comics page. That’s 1.5 million daily readers in Houston alone , compared to how many for XKCD or Penny Arcade worldwide? “

XKCD- published under creative commons – allows more freedom to the readers to reuse & distribute the same. Geeks are more connected to computer –thus spreading XKCD more efficiently.

” People read Dilbert in the newspaper, so they don’t feel the need to read it on the computer. The people who read comics on the computer tends to be younger, and as such they tend to gravitate towards comics that share their aesthetic. “

4. Brand imge: Dilbert is an established brand while XKCD currently enjoys the enthusiasm cult creation (has a huge fan base ,who meets regularly offline)

” I have 2 XKCD shirts and 3 Dilbert books. Dilbert is still vastly popular, while XKCD has a strong “cult” following. “

Dilbert is in papers – I don’t think they care how the website does. Dilbert’s in books ,mugs -people buy those in a real way. “

Conclusion :

No doubt Dilbert is immensely popular in news prints. However in the web democracy – XKCD seems to be the winner.

Incase you are willing to follow this further, keep contributing to this space.

Show continues to our next Game: Adidas to Overcome Nike?

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3 Responses

  1. T P Rajmanohar Says:

    Thanks. Dilbert is usually correct but relates to the office. As leisure activities are more popular if it changed its concentration and focussed on the leisure segment it is likely to be popular again.

  2. Jonathan Says:

    Maybe, but this is just an assumption, the use of RSS readers has major implications on reading Dilbert, therefore traffic by RSS readers is not calculated on both sites, but the ease of sharing xkcd materials is one of the reasons for technical popularity.

  3. TrendFreaks Crossed 1,000 Members | Says:

    […] In the journey so far you have helped us in uncovering many mysterious trends including the decline of office hero Dilbert. […]

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