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Archie Comics is becoming the first comic book publisher to make digital versions of its comics available for free through a new monetization model. The deal with mobile ad firm Tapjoy will allow comic book makers to take advantage of the virtual goods model that has proven so lucrative for developers of mobile games.

Tapjoy will enable Archie Comics to adopt a reward-based ad model, where users who don’t want to pay can access content for free by engaging with offers from Tapjoy. Offers are special ads that users can view in lieu of paying for a virtual item. For instance, instead of paying 99 cents for a digital comic, a user might agree to watch a video ad, take a survey, or otherwise interact with an ad. Once you’ve completed the interaction, Tapjoy unlocks the digital comic for you.

Archie fans who download the iOS or Android app can access the content for free by engaging with Tapjoy ads. iVerse will handle the digital content distribution, starting on July 18. Tapjoy calls the ad model its Mobile Value Exchange, where users engage with ads to earn virtual rewards that they can spend on more than 2,000 Archie comics.

“The teams at Archie Comics and iVerse are pioneers when it comes to digital distribution of some of the most beloved comics ever created,” said Steve Wadsworth, president and CEO of Tapjoy, in a statement. “Enabling consumers to simply watch a video or engage with an ad to obtain their favorite comics is an industry-first and makes Archie and the town of Riverdale more accessible to consumers across the globe.”

Tapjoy, which is expanding beyond games, recently used the same model in a deal with Screen Media Ventures, which is making movies available under a free-to-use model, said Jeff Drobick, chief product officer at Tapjoy, in a talk at our MobileBeat 2013 conference yesterday. The deal is one of a number of tactics Tapjoy is using to boost monetization for its customers.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Tapjoy and embrace a new way for our consumers to get the comics they love,” said Jon Goldwater, Archie Comics Publisher and co-CEO. “Making our great content catalog available through a new free-to-own model establishes a new opportunity for how people read comics and will bring even more fans to the Archie universe.”

Archie previously broke new ground by becoming the first comic book publisher to release digital comics the same day as the print edition, and it continues to blaze trails in maintaining its status as a leader in the digital marketplace.

Tapjoy is used in more than 97,000 apps. It is backed by investors, including J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Rho Ventures, North Bridge Venture Partners, InterWest Partners, and D.E. Shaw Ventures.

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