Twitter helps sports cartoonist stay relevant

November, 28, 2012
Rob Tornoe sat in his studio in his house in Newark, Del., on Monday night, tuned into the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Carolina Panthers.

In his hand? A Cintiq, a cross between an iPad and a computer that allows him to draw on the screen and immediately upload his high-resolution, finished product to the internet.

The slow demise of old media, and lack of funds by newspapers and magazines, has pushed many cartoonists to the curb. Not Tornoe.

"It's not that cartoons are less relevant than before," Tornoe said. "They're actually more popular. You just have to figure out how to distribute your content."

This NFL season, Tornoe caught my eye. After I tweeted one of his cartoons, one of his fans who knew of his work from the Philadelphia Inquirer told me what he does: Tornoe live tweets his cartoons.

On Monday night, Tornoe drew four cartoons during the game and tweeted them out on his handle, @RobTornoe.

Rob Tornoe drawingCourtesy of Rob TornoeTornoe's first drawing, of an Eagles fan taking vows to his team, went up just before the game.
Tornoe artCourtesy of Rob TornoeFor his second cartoon, Tornoe took advantage of Jon Gruden broadcasting the game for ESPN.
Tornoe artCourtesy of Rob TornoeTornoe's third cartoon made fun of the Eagles using the idea of the tree as the local bulletin board.
Tornoe artCourtesy of Rob TornoeAnd after another loss, Tornoe put maligned Eagles head coach Andy Reid in place of Bugs Bunny.

All of Tornoe's cartoons go on a page the Philadelphia Inquirer created for him called Sports Ink. The newspaper also started a weekly caption contest using Tornoe's cartoon. This week, Tornoe drew Reid with a fork in him.

"There's a very healthy appetite for this type of content," Tornoe said. "In today's day and age, what I've found is, you have to be a salesman as much as you are a cartoonist. If you can't sell, you can't get jobs. But if you can't draw, you won't be successful either. No one ever says, 'We need a cartoonist,' but if you can show them how to generate revenue, that can change."

Cartoon franchises come and go, but Tornoe is protected somewhat by the fact that fans, as referenced by his first cartoon on Monday night, never go away.

One might think that having a losing team might be easier than drawing for a winning one, but Tornoe said the making Eagles cartoons are difficult this year.

"The challenge is coming up with fifteen different cartoon ideas as to why Andy Reid needs to go," Tornoe said.

Tornoe's cartoons might be funny, but his way of doing business is not a joke. The message that the distribution outlet is just as important as the content is a timeless lesson for any entrepreneur.

Darren Rovell | email Sports Business reporter



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