Inside ‘The Onion’s New Click-Bait Parody, ClickHole.com
ClickHole.com, The Onion’s new standalone site, debuts today. It’s an exciting project months in the making, managed by ClickHole editor Jermaine Affonso. Affonso, previously a senior writer for The Onion, talked to Splitsider about his vision for the site and what readers can expect. “This site is The Onion’s response to click-bait content,” Affonso explains. “If The Onion is a parody of news prints and The Onion News Network is a parody of cable news, then ClickHole is a parody of online media.” The site will include lists, quizzes, videos, blog posts from interesting characters, slideshows, “and all the types of things you’d experience on that type of site, except hopefully a lot funnier,” according to Affonso. “We want the site to look just like one of these online media types of sites.”
ClickHole features Buzzfeed-esque lists (“5 Iconic Movie Scenes That Were Actually Fake”) and quizzes (“Which Hungry Hungry Hippo Are You?”), articles like “Meet The Most Powerful Man You’ve Never Heard Of” (a Barack Obama profile) and the Upworthy-parodying “This Video Seems Silly But It Makes a Good Point,” an animated dinosaur dancing to goofy music on a colorful background with the phrase “Racism Is Bad” on screen. But Affonso emphasizes that ClickHole is not meant to parody one or two sites in particular:
It’s really just the way the internet is at large and how it’s affecting culture as a whole, the way we consume all of our information. Increasingly, common use sites are having these headlines that have a cliffhanger until you click on it. Or they just have photos of cute animals. People really like this stuff, they look at it, they share it. Everyone’s trying to compete by putting this stuff on their site. There’s a desperation to it, so instead of being frustrating it’s almost more sad at this point. It’s so visible that it seemed like a natural target for us to use as a comedy venue.
With a staff that includes almost 30 people, they aim to put out about seven to 10 new pieces a day. ClickHole will employ a variety of styles and jokes, and its writers are especially excited about it as a medium for a new type of comedy.
“The stuff I’m most excited about is using it as a new outlet for telling jokes. That’s what’s great about The Onion: you have this news voice, and you can really tell any jokes you want with it. We want this site to be the same way,” Affonso says. “Maybe if you get a different result on a quiz, you’ll get a different joke. Playing with the way people are experiencing the comedy has been the most fun for us writers … there doesn’t have to be one direction to escalate this joke. We can play with this format and change the way people are looking at it.” When asked to describe ClickHole in one click-baiting sentence, Affonso chooses to play off the Internet’s general desperation: “Please click on ClickHole, please please please.”
Emma Soren is a writer from Chicago living in Philadelphia.