How the Internet Ruined the Onion

Farhad Manjoo isn't a fan of the site's new arch, digital-first, viral model

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 6, 2013 10:32 AM CDT

(Newser) – Once upon a time, an entire year ago, the Onion was a quaint, weekly newspaper, publishing only the very best fake news. Lately, that's all changed. Readers may have noticed the site getting a lot more biting, a lot more timely, and, to some Slate columnists, a lot less funny. "What happened to the Onion? Two words: The Internet," Farhad Manjoo observes. Last year the editorial staff was moved from New York to Chicago, and many quit. At the same time, the site went "digital first."

"In every way that matters, the people who produce the Onion now think of it as a website, not a paper." That's meant more stories written more quickly, and an emphasis on stories with viral potential—which Manjoo thinks has led to pieces like this ultra-popular column that are "a little scoldy, oversmart, and lacking in much nuance." Then again, "the model that sustained the Onion for decades is simply unworkable in today’s grinding, instant-reaction age. If the Onion published just 20 jokes once a week in 2013, nobody would read it. It would be far too little and always too late." Click for his full column.

The Onion's logo is seen in this screenshot from its website.   (The Onion)
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The new Onion sometimes aims for Jon Stewart’s game: ultra-clever but also a little scoldy, oversmart, and lacking much nuance. In an attempt to make a viral joke, the new Onion often makes an easy one. - Farhad Manjoo

If you look through the Onion over the last half-year, there’s a ton of stories about how horrible it is to work for the Onion. - An anonymous former Onion staffer, pointing to pieces like 'Executive Creative, Too' and 'Sponsored Content Pretty Fucking Awesome'

If your argument is that the Onion has gotten less funny because it’s had to adapt to the Internet, then OK—but that’s not the fault of anyone but, just, you know, the world. - An anonymous Onion staffer

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