Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Read It and Weep

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Read It and Weep

Article excerpt

'THE ONION' ROLLS ON

And now the profitable, New York-based satirical weekly has new movie, radio, book and Web projects

After 15 years, it looks like The Onion -- both lover and mocker of daily newspapers -- is here to stay. As the kooky brand continues to gain popularity and expand, both in print and online, a host of new projects and products are currently in the works at Onion, Inc. "We are working on a movie," says editor-in-chief Carol Kolb, from her New York City office. "We have this thing called 'Onion Radio News.' We have another book that just came out. We're working on a pay section to our Web site (www.theonion.com)."

The site will continue to be free in its present form, however. "We're just going to do a bunch of new material (as a premium)," Kolb says. "A lot of it will be complete archives. Older things that people haven't seen. Things that don't fit into a newspaper or Web site."

With a print presence in five cities, the Onion has attracted a loyal weekly readership of 300,000. But this figure pales in comparison to the online version of the paper, which Time magazine called "The funniest site on the Internet." The site tallies a staggering 5,000,000 visits and 31,500,000 page views per month.

The Onion dates back to 1988 in Madison, Wisc., when Tim Keck and Chris Johnson, two students at the University of Wisconsin, created it mostly as a parody of campus life and the college town. The publication remained primarily a local phenomenon until 1996, when its Web site was launched. In 2000, the Onion relocated to New York City.

The Onion became nearly a textbook example of a newspaper using the Web to further its presence. The paper's national renown allowed it to expand its print edition into other cities, move a series of best- selling books and merchandise, and sell subscriptions to the print edition. In all, Onion, Inc. currently generates an annual revenue of over $7 million, and is profitable.

Perhaps the greatest triumph of the Onion, which bills itself as "America's finest news source," has been its ability to pull a profit from its Web site -- something that has eluded many "serious" online news outlets. …

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