Ryan North’s Online (and Offline) World

Posted on November 13, 2011


In online comic circles, as with any industry, there is the old guard and the new. Of the old guard, there is one who towers — literally and figuratively — above the rest: Ryan North, creator of the fixed-art webcomic Dinosaur Comics, and developer of new and easier ways for creators to advertise themselves and make their content available for readers. North, in addition to his five-day-a-week update regimen, developed and edited the best-selling science fiction collection, Machine of Death.

Ryan North’s first big foray into web service, Oh No Robot, was released in 2006 and provides a personalized search engine for online comics. The comic’s creator registers with the site and his or her readers help transcribe each comic, building a customized, searchable database. His biggest impact in the online world came in 2007, when he designed and released the Project Wonderful advertising service. Dissatisfied with Google Ads — which pay by click-through or view, and can thus be easily inflated by fraudulent means — North and a friend brainstormed how they would approach web advertising.

The result was Project Wonderful, which functions through time and auctions rather than clicks or views. For instance, if you were willing to pay one dollar a day to advertise on a website, your ad would display unless someone was willing to pay more per day for the ad space. As a publisher, someone whose website features Project Wonderful advertisements, you can cancel at any time and apart from a small commission, you pay nothing to Project Wonderful. As an added bonus, whereas you cannot withdraw earnings from Google Ads until you have made at least one hundred dollars, you can withdraw your Project Wonderful earnings once you have made ten dollars.

Ryan North also tackled the complications associated with RSS feeds and with 2006’s RSSPECT. Not only does it make RSS-compatibility as simple as signing up and adding two lines of code to your website, but as a reader, you can build custom feeds even if the website does not have a dedicated RSS feed. RSSPECT is a free program, in line with North’s past record of making his services available to people for little or no money.

Recently, North co-edited the science fiction collection Machine of Death. The book was inspired by a Dinosaur Comics strip from 2005 and features new stories from all over the world. On its release Machine of Death reached the number one spot on Amazon.com’s best-seller list, beating Glenn Beck’s Broke, which released on the same day.

At only thirty-one, Ryan North has many creating days ahead. And chances are good that whether his next endeavors are in the online world or the physical one, his efforts will be greeted with success.

Posted in: Entrepreneurs