NEW YORK – Having already blossomed as a newspaper, Web site and book publisher, The Onion – perhaps the most dominant provider of fake news anywhere – is bringing its brand of humor to the hot medium of the moment: Online video.
The dispatches on the Onion News Network (www.theonion.com), which goes live today, aren’t likely to be causing much missed sleep over at CNN and Fox News Channel, unless those outlets start covering fake news stories such as Civil War re-enactors being dispatched to Iraq.
But on the Web, The Onion will be going up against several others who have already established themselves in comedy video, including Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
Much of that awareness, however, came from unauthorized clips being viewed on Google Inc.’s YouTube, something that Comedy Central’s parent company Viacom Inc. is suing YouTube over for $1 billion.
Sean Mills, the president of the closely held company that runs The Onion, says he has “some tolerance” for unauthorized use of clips, and is optimistic that the company will reach a mutually beneficial arrangement with YouTube.
Clips from the Onion News Network will also be available for free downloads on Apple Inc.’s iTunes store, and Mills said the company is in talks with other Web companies about possible distribution deals.
In the meantime, The Onion wanted to give its audience as much flexibility as possible, and will allow features that are popular on video-sharing sites such as allowing Web publishers to embed clips into their blogs.
“We want as many people to see our news reports as possible,” Mills said. “We can work out a deal with YouTube when they’re ready.”
The Onion’s network will start out with two new video clips per week, supported by ads. An in-house staff of eight people will work on the videos, which have a professional look to them despite the buffoonery being discussed, such as a top-level technology executive who is forced to sell his estate and take a job managing a TGI Friday’s after his job goes to an illegal immigrant.