I had great fun at the European editorial cartoonists convention in St Just le Martel France the last two years and I’m going again this …
Here I am with my cow, Josette. I’m holding the St. Just porcelain statue depicting their logo that they give to grand prix winners.
I just got back from the grand editorial cartooning festival in St. Just le Martel, France where I won the grand prix, the “Prix de l’humor Vache” award, which was an actual cow, named Josette.
The “Salon de St. Just, ” in its 32nd year, draws cartoonists from around the world to a tiny town near Limoges. The townspeople have adopted the cartoonists and hold a party that stretches over two weekends, in a grand cartoon museum they built in the middle of cow country. Most of the cartoonists stay in the homes of volunteer villagers – the entire event is put together by townpeople Cartoonists usually come for only one weekend of the festival, splitting the crowd between what becomes two different weekend groups of roughly 120 cartoonists each.
This was my second “Salon,” last year I went with our knuckle-dragging, conservative, “Tea Party” cartoonist, Eric Allie, who was a strange beast to the French. This year I went with three liberal cartoonists, Pat Bagley of the Salt Lake Tribune, Steve Sack of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and Bob Englehart of the Hartford Courant for three days of open bar and schmoozing with our international colleagues.
Here I am with my Cagle Cartoons colleagues, dubbed “Cagle Cowboys”, from left, Josette, Pat Bagley, Me, Bob Englehart and Steve Sack below.
My festival friends tell me that a cow is usually a placid animal, but sometimes the cow will get annoyed and give a swift, painful kick as a surprise to an unlucky bystander; this contributes to the idea that the cow is a little sneaky, nasty and unpredictable. The “Prix de l’humor Vache,” the grand prize they gave me, is described as an award for “caustic humor.” “Humor Vache” (funny cow) rhymes with “Amour Vache” (love cow, or more accurately “rough love”) a French idiom for a love affair that is nasty, consisting of harsh words and arguments. In France, to refer to someone as a “vache” (cow) is a little bit nasty. In contrast, on the first Saturday of the Salon, they give out the “Humor Tendre” (Tender Humor) award, which is a sheep, given to a sweet cartoonist such as a children’s book illustrator.
The Limoges area is proud of their cows, which are raised for beef and are all a warm brown color. The cow is the symbol and mascot of the Salon. Every year, the “Prix de l’humor Vache” cow is named “Josette” and is actually given to the winning cartoonist. At the ceremony, the mayor of St. Just, Gerard Vandenbroucke, awarded Limoges porcelain cows to my three American compatriots, dubbing them “Cagle’s cowboys.” Bob, Pat and Steve, who can also claim to have won cows (although, not real cows) took their little cows around to all the other cartoonists at the Salon to sign; it was charming.
Typically, the winning cartoonist is expected to take a cash award (I still don’t know how much) in lieu of actually taking delivery of the real Josette, who would be difficult to check on a plane and would likely be an unpleasant roommate in my tiny, Nashville apartment. But, they make it clear that the cartoonist really won a cow and could actually take the cow if he or she chooses to, and there are stories of cartoonists in past years choosing to take the cow. I’m told that are some amusing movies of a past winner taking his cow to Paris, trying to bring the cow on the Metro, and taking the cow up the Eiffel Tower. If anyone can find these movies online, I’d love to take a look.
Part of winning the grand prize cow is the obligation to do the art for the poster for the next Salon. The poster this year featured a lovely Degas-like ballerina cow. The festival people then dress a cow sculpture, in the entry to the museum, to match the cow on the poster. My plan is to give the cow on next year’s poster a very elaborate costume that will be a unique challenge for a St. Just volunteer to create for the cow statue. Right now, I’m thinking of doing the poster cow as Marie Antoinette with a huge, elaborate, flowing gown.
Here’s Bob Englehart with the cow statue at the entrance to the exhibition. The cow is dressed to match the poster which is a ballerina this year. Next year I’ll be doing the poster and I plan to put the cow in a very elaborate costume that will be a challenge for St. Just’s volunteer seamstresses.
The whole event in St. Just is a lovely boost for our beleaguered editorial cartooning profession which is suffering in France as it is here and around the world with newspapers declining everywhere. I’d love to see some of the great French attitude about the value of editorial cartooning rub off on other parts of the world, like America, which treats cartooning as a second class art form. I can’t imagine a whole town in the USA choosing to build a municipal cartoon museum, opening their homes, and pitching together to cook dinner for hundreds of editorial cartoonists – and, of-course, a nine day open bar would be unthinkable in America.
From left to right, Bob Englehart, Stave Sack, St. Just’s Mayor Gerard Vandenbroucke in the red shirt, me holding my “Prix de l’humor Vache” porcelain statue, Josette, and Pat Bagley in the lower right corner.
Below is a scan of the Limoges newspaper front page and interior story from the day after I had a cow.
This weekend, visitors to our site probably noticed that there are ads for Cagle Post appearing on web sites everywhere – even on Facebook. What’s up with that?
We’ve been trying some new things since our partnership with msnbc.com was dissolved recently – trying some because we can now, and couldn’t before, and trying others things because we no longer have the income from our nice, former partners at msnbc.com so we’re forced to make some tough choices.
We’ve redesigned the site to optimize ad revenue and social networking; part of this change was putting many cartoons onto single pages so that we can have comments and permalinks with the cartoons. This change has resulted in better ad revenue and SEO, even though I, and many of our readers preferred multiple cartoons on the pages, multiple cartoons on a page is a lousy layout for SEO – and without our traffic-heavy partners at msnbc.com, we have to pay attention to SEO now.
Another thing we’re trying, which has bothered some of our readers, is a paywall. Everybody hates paywalls, and many of our readers tell me that all content on the web should be free – and until recently, our site has been totally free because msnbc.com wanted it that way.
I see this banner ad frequently as I browse other web sites. It shows up for users who have a cookie showing that they have visited Cagle.com in the past.
I’d like to see paywalls work. As a content creator and syndicator, the idea that readers should pay a little for content is how I make a living, and advertising on the internet doesn’t pay much. If paywalls could work, it would be great for newspapers, magazines and cartoonists. I’m trying it because I’d like for it to work, but the jury is still out on paywalls. I remember the feedback from when I was with Slate.com, about when they tried a paywall – it worked, and they made more income, but their traffic fell to a tiny fraction of what it had been, and their underpaid writers were no longer interested in contributing for poor pay plus a poor audience. Slate gave up the paywall.
Most of our readers probably haven’t encountered our paywall, because most readers just look at the current cartoons, which don’t trigger the paywall. Right now, if you look at ten pages of archives, you’ll hit the paywall. We’re asking for a small payment as a “premium subscriber” to keep looking at our hundreds of thousands of cartoons in the database on cagle.com. We’ve chosen settings for the paywall that are very generous to the free content audience. The new way of looking at paywalls is to leave a generous amount of content available for free, and apply the paywall to only the most ardent fans who want to stay on the site for a long time.
We’re using Mediapass.com for our paywall. So far, they have been nice to work with. They are prodigious advertisers and, as our paywall partners, they have started advertising on our behalf. Their ads look for cookies in a user’s browser; if the user has visited Cagle.com in the past, it displays the ads for Cagle.com shown above, linking to our e-mail subscriptions page. We have one free daily e-mail newsletter and other newsletters for premium subscribers who can subscribe to individual cartoonist feeds as well as our special “premium” e-mail newsletter, and who, of-course, have unlimited access to the archives behind the paywall.
So, if you are reading this, you probably have cookies on your browser that bring up the Cagle post ads on lots of different sites, and Facebook. It may seen like we’re advertising everywhere – but we’re not, it just looks that way.
Hopefully we’ll stumble our way into finally finding a plan for making the Web work for us. Our little business still depends on print customers who have a tradition of paid content and of paying their bills, and the mortgages of cartoonists. That is a big difference between us and Slate; our cartoonists and columnists are with us because of our 850+ subscribing newspapers, and not because of our audience on the Web, so we can afford to lose some audience to the paywall, without losing our contributors, as Slate did. That said, so far we haven’t lost audience with our new paywall and layout changes, so I’m hopeful.
And I enjoy seeing the Cagle Post ads everywhere I go on the Web, even if it is only a cookie-driven illusion and everybody isn’t really seeing them.
For the past six years we’ve enjoyed a partnership with msnbc.com (which recently changed its name to NBCNews.com) and for six years before that, with Slate.com when it was part of the Microsoft Network – all in all, twelve years with Microsoft and MSN.com. I regret to write that our partnership has come to an end.
I was the official “editorial cartoonist” for Slate.com, msnbc.com and NBCNews.com. Of-course, all of the cartoonists that work with us through our Cagle Cartoons syndicate and Politicalcartoons.com were featured on the MSN.com sites, including slide shows on news topics of the day on msnbc.com, the Today Show site and NBC Sports; we did a cartoon week in review and maintained a “CartoonBlog.”
Recently, msnbc.com changed ownership to be run by NBC, and NBC itself recently changed ownership. It isn’t usual these days for cartoons to be cut to save costs, but we were cut for editorial reasons. The reason I was given for our departure was “the new management wants nothing to do with cartoons.” Msnbc.com/NBCNews.com has never had an opinion section, or other opinion content, so it is disappointing, but not entirely unexpected.
Readers of our Cagle.com site will see very few changes – the NBCNews.com logo is gone from our header and will be gone from my attribution in my future cartoons. Our site will look the same as always; we’ll continue our syndication business as always at CagleCartoons.com and Politicalcartoons.com.
Our editors at MSN/Slate/msnbc/NBCNews were wonderful to work with all these years; I’ve appreciated their support for our cartoonists and our art form. They loved what we did, let us do what we wanted and were happy with what we wanted to do – the perfect editors! They were great. I miss them already.