THE NATIONAL CARTOONISTS SOCIETY continues to make smart changes during Tom Richmond’s administration.

. (courtesy of NCS /.)

Last year, for the first time, the industry organization recognized webcomics by adding an Online Comic Strip award to its annual compeitition. (Jon Rosenberg’s “Scenes From a Multiverse”won the inaugural prize over “Penny Arcade" and “The Oatmeal.”)

This year, the NCS has newly announced, the professional group is wisely splitting its webcomic recognition into two distinct categories: Online Comics, Short Form and Online Comics, Long Form.

“Last year, we purposefully kept the criteria narrow with the Online Comics division, so we could see how the process would work,” Richmond tells Comic Riffs on Thursday. “We always intended to expand the division to be more inclusive of other formats of cartooning. This is another step.”

The criteria for a Short Form online comic will be a “daily strip, single panel, Sunday strip, or partial/single page formats,” the NCS says, adding that “Short form comics should be able to stand alone as a single narrative, even if it is part of a longer storyline like an adventure strip.”

To be eligible, Long Form online comics must be “ongoing narratives told in full-page formats. Basically an online comic book or graphic novel, where the story is fully serialized.”

“The biggest challenge for us with respect to online comics has always been to adhere to the NCS awards rule that states that, while it's not necessary to be a member, a cartoonist must be ‘eligible’ for NCS membership in order to have their work considered for a divisional award,” says Richmond, who is president of the longtime group.

“In order to be eligible for NCS membership, you must earn the greater part of your living from cartooning,” continues Richmond, the noted MAD caricaturist/artist who won the group’s major Reuben Award last year. “That isn't an easy thing to quantify anymore. With online comics, we need to take into account site traffic, professionalism in consistent and regular publication, online community activity and other factors that are the hallmark of professional online work.

“In some cases, it's pretty obvious the creator is making a career out of cartooning. In some, it's not so obvious.”

Richmond sees these rule changes — among several the NCS just announced — as an evolving process.

“As the publishing and digital world continue to march toward an inevitable convergence, someday in the future the distinction between published and online comics will disappear, and this will all be a moot point,” he tells Comic Riffs. “In the meantime, the NCS will continue to explore and refine its efforts to recognize excellence in online comics.”

For more information about entering submissions, click here.

The 67th annual Reuben Awards dinner will be May 25 in Pittsburgh.