Video has played a big role in the explosion of humor sites from Heavy.com to This Just In. Conspicuously absent from the pack has been The Onion, seemingly shunning silly videos in favor of its well-honed satirical prose.
Until now, anyway. With the launch of the Onion News Network late last month, the famed fake newspaper has plunged into video production. The venture is based on the conceit that the paper has been operating a 24-hour news service for the last 75 years, unknown to anyone. It will stream original clips each week produced by a team of 15 staffers, covering the last seven decades.
“We’re not just taking what exists in the newspaper or on the Web site and applying video to it,” says Sean Mills, president of Onion Inc. “We’re treating video as its own medium.”
The network’s two- to four-minute clips will encompass a variety of news shows and segments including a send-up of C-SPAN called O-SPAN. So how will Onion News Network differ from “The Daily Show” or “The Colbert Report”? “It’s not based on a single personality and we have a much more ominous, serious sort of take on the news as opposed to a wink and a nudge,” explains Mills.
Marketers, at least, are taking the network seriously, queuing up for exclusive sponsorships that feature a static message before a video and a post-roll ad afterward. Mills says the post-roll model is less intrusive and has worked well on its audio podcasts. Besides launch sponsor Dewar’s, other advertisers lined up include Hyundai, Red Stripe beer and MSNBC.
The Onion was the fifth highest-rated humor site in February with a monthly audience of nearly 1.4 million, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. Hitwise ranks The Onion at No. 22, in terms of market share. In either case, Mills expects that adding video and encouraging users to share clips and embed them on blogs will help boost traffic. “I think we’ll benefit from that, definitely,” he says.