The Business of XKCD

XKCD is a web comic created by 23-year-old physics major and programmer Randall Munroe who is actually making a living off his web-comic. Here’s a sample comic that I found particularly funny… but you have to be a programmer to appreciate it:

The New York Times just did a profile on Mr. Munroe and revealed some interesting stats with regard to making a living as a web comic-strip writer. attracts 500,000 unique visitors a day and delivers over 80 million page views in a month. There are no ads, however. Instead, Munroe appears to make a living off T-shirt sales. They reportedly sell “thousands” of T-shirts a month, which supports him and his partner “reasonably well.” It’s apparently not that easy to find this success since Munroe estimates he’s one of only two dozen web comic authors who actually make a living off of their comics.

If we wildly guess at $10 profit per T-shirt, that gives us a range of $20,000-$99,000 (2000-9999 T-shirts) revenue a month which projects out to $240,000 to $1,188,000 a year in revenue. So, the duo probably pull in the mid-hundreds-of-thousands a year. Not bad at all, and a surprising revenue stream. In some ways it makes sense, in that advertising revenue for comics can’t be very lucrative. Regardless, it’s refreshing to see someone have a non-advertising revenue stream.

Another interesting tidbit from the article is that Munroe talks about the power of the Internet with respect to niche markets:

On the Internet, he said, “You can draw something that appeals to 1 percent of the audience — 1 percent of United States, that is three million people, that is more readers than small cartoons can have.”

He’s built a business succeeding in his niche market, despite the fact that “mass appeal” of a technical comic strip is relatively small.

It would seem a physically bound book would be an obvious step to take, and it appears its in the works in some form.

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