Any American kid with half an ounce of good old native wiseassism in him was reared on Mad magazine. And somewhere on the edge of most of our consciousness was this pale echo of Mad, Cracked magazine. Always feeling that Cracked was an obvious wannabe Mad, I have to admit I rarely ventured into its pages. Only in adulthood did I discover that many of the writers and artists who graced Mad also came in and out of Cracked's stables since its inception in 1958. So imagine my surprise when I happened upon the now defunct humor mag online at Cracked.com. Even more surprising, they actually has a more robust and genuinely humorous output than Mad magazine's mostly archival site and even National Lampoon's weary Web presence. And guess who owns Cracked.com but Demand Media.
Yes the very company often accused of "content farming" and gaming the Google algorithms with just-good-enough user-gen content is leveraging properties like Cracked to feed the Web more substantial fare. Video is one of the core competencies of Cracked. Its best-known series "Agents of Cracked," is an office comedy involving two Cracked staffers, Dan and Mike. But there are also some very clever pop culture send-ups and ad parodies all with polished production values. A recent Pokemon anime spoof was especially smart (think gasping Pikachu) and an "After Hours" series (more office banter) is gushing with pop culture references targeting Millennials. Deconstructing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is fun, too.
One thing that Mad and National Lampoon do not have that Cracked does is a Demand Media distribution engine that knows SEO. It claims that its portfolio of verticals, including LiveStrong.com and eHow, have a reach of over 100 million. There is also an iPad app that featured the Cracked video content.
Demand Media clearly is pumping up its video inventory with more than eHow how-tos. In addition to Cracked.com, they also recently launched the typeF.com site in partnership with model celeb Tyra Banks. Riding the wave of popular beauty how-to clips on YouTube but with a brand name behind it, typeF has its own trove of clips on everything from eyeliner to jumpsuit fashion.While many online wring their hands over the decline in Demand Media traffic after Google shifted its algorithms, the company is quietly building more robust properties that clearly do more than "farm" content.