Newspapers feature cartoons on the editorial pages for serious commentary on events of the day and also on special pages designed for light entertainment. Cartoonists work as full-time staffers at newspapers and also sell their individual art strips as part of a syndication agreement. The majority of cartoonists sell art as piecework, one cartoon purchased in separate agreements. Cartoonist pay varies with the artist's personal notoriety and the status of the newspaper printing the art. The most lucrative artist profits come from licensing the rights to their cartoon characters.
Large metropolitan newspapers hire staff cartoonists to develop cartoon commentary on national and local events for the editorial page. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted staff cartoonists and artists working in print advertising earned a median annual wage of $52,530 in 2008. This figure did not include any health or other additional benefits. The Pew Research Center reported a large number of newspaper closures in America in 2004 and this decline continues through 2011. Corporate budget cuts influence management shifts to using freelance cartoons and syndicated art to eliminate the costs of staff earning full-time pay and benefit payments.
The BLS reported in 2009 that approximately 60 percent of artists operate as self-employed cartoonists with pay ranging into the millions each year to wages well below a basic government subsistence level. Freelance pay, according to the bureau, varies from a cartoon submitted without pay by entry-level cartoonists eager for exposure to several hundred dollars per cartoon for well-known artists appearing in individual newspapers with high-volume readership and advertising income. Freelancers use talent agents or negotiate their personal fees with independent or non-syndicated metropolitan newspapers. The BLS reported the median annual pay of the lowest working artist group, typically freelancer cartoonists, as $31,570 in 2008.
Syndicated cartoon agencies, including Creators Syndicate, United Feature Syndicate and King Features, represent select cartoonists as a talent and management agency. The company negotiates a fee for number of papers printing the cartoon strips and also promotes the art work for related sales in clothing, books and films. Cartoonist Charles Schultz, creator of the "Peanuts" strip, earned an annual income of between $30 and $40 million in 2000 on the more than $1 billion revenue the "Peanuts" crew earned from licensing royalties, product endorsements and the syndication of the cartoon strip during Schultz' time under representation by a syndicated agency.
Related Cartoon Income
Well-known newspaper cartoons earn the artists income from licensing the rights to the art images for use on clothing, toys, films, television and books. In 2000, Schultz' "Peanuts" cartoon strip ran daily in more than 2,500 papers in 75 different countries. Schultz died from cancer in 2000 and Iconix, a media firm, and Schultz family members purchased rights to the "Peanuts" characters for $175 million in 2010. While "Peanuts" profits were atypical, other cartoon strips, including "The City," "Blondie" and "Dennis the Menace," also brought in lesser amounts for books, greeting card, clothing and gift items. The cartoonist, or his agent, negotiates a contract for each project using the cartoon artwork.