Posts Tagged ‘Columbia Journalism Review’

The Onion offers slices to local owners

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

The Onion, a satirical newspaper, has announced a national franchising program, allowing local owners to publish and distribute the weekly.

“Franchisees will pay a weekly fee to license Onion content; they’ll sell their own ads, pay to print and distribute the papers, and keep the profits from the ads they sell,” the Columbia Journalism Review says. “In turn, The Onion expands its readership and drives more readers to their ever-expanding website.”

Onion CEO Steve Hannah told the CJR that as its online and television presence expanded its audience, the company’s print revenue declined. It shut down print editions in Los Angeles and San Francisco in May 2009 because of lack of advertising revenue.

“What The Onion does best is produce content,” Hannah told the magazine. “So we said, ‘We’ll produce all the content — we have 100 percent control over the content — and you people know how to run a business in your individual cities better than we do.’”

Hannah said the Onion’s print and web editions complement each other well, and that they have more online readers in cities where the print papers are distributed for free. “They started to see how attractive it would be to bring their print editions to cities where they knew they already had a large online audience, without assuming the risk of operating remotely in a place where they didn’t already have relationships with local advertisers. Hence, the franchise.”

Franchisees would pay a weekly fee for one or more of three  levels of content: the national Onion news, the A.V. Club arts and entertainment news, and local A.V. Club entertainment listings.

The company is first targeting newspapers in cities where the Onion prints now, since they have distribution and sales organizations, and presses in place, then looking to new markets. “The new franchisees who sign on could be other existing newspapers, or — enticingly — individuals looking to get into business with their favorite satirical news source,” the CJR says.

“[W]e love the idea of launching new cities with a couple people who are fresh out of school, or who have been in the print business before,” COO Michael McAvoy said. “All those things sound great to us, as long as they are Onion fans and they want to protect the brand and build a good business.”