How This Fake News Company Makes Money

The Onion is a satirical news site with over 50m readers. They cover everything from politics to sports to local news... but this is how they make their money.

October 4, 2016

Ever been shocked while using Facebook?

Something that made you freak out… until you saw “The Onion” in the article’s URL?

The Onion is a satirical news company that’s been fooling people since 1988. Since launching, they’ve made the seemingly impossible transition from print to digital, pulled in over 50m monthly readers, and collected 6m FB fans.

So how does a company that writes fake news stories make money?

Two words: Branded content.

The strategy started in 2012 when Microsoft approached The Onion asking for ideas on how they could use humor to sell the public on Internet Explorer.

Here’s the final product:

That campaign led The Onion to form Onion Labs – a creative arm of the company focused on making funny, laugh-at-yourself campaigns for brands that want to reach millennial readers without relying on banner ads and pop-ups.

Like this campaign for the Jim Gaffigan show. Or this Reebok-sponsored article.

Or this one for Schick, titled “Complete Idiot Forgot To Shave Area Between Mouth and Nose”:

screen-shot-2016-10-04-at-12-10-28-pm

This sponsored post got 2k shares on Facebook.

These days, Onion Labs brings in over 80% of the company’s revenue by creating content that drives engagement AND fits with The Onion’s voice.

Hassan S. Ali is the creative marketing director – aka the guy behind the branded content strategy – for The Onion.

At Con Con, Hassan is going to explain how he creates content that demonstrates a company’s value without sounding self-promotional. He’ll even create a campaign in real time.

So if you wanna learn how to create content that will make your readers love your brand without sounding full of yourself, you’ll love Hassan’s presentation.

To reserve your spot, click here and book your ticket for Con Con on Nov 4th.


A note from The Hustle: Every morning at 9am Pacific, we send an email with the top news stories in business and tech. It's kind of like if your friend read the internet all day then told you the important stuff in a fun, easy to understand way. Join the club and impress your coworkers with how smart you are.


Kera ZacutoKera Zacuto // The Hustle
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