Why the Cards Against Humanity deal is no joke


February 5, 2020

The Hustle
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FELIX GRAY

Call it an accidental overshare. Google is telling a few users of its photo service that their private videos were sent to a stranger’s data-export archive by mistake. Whoops. Today:

  • ClickHole’s deal is more than hijinks
  • Boozy Everything invades your drinks
  • Strange bedfellows say a key law stinks
The Hustle Daily Email

Inside the strange success of Cards Against Humanity

The irreverent card-game company Cards Against Humanity bought the satire site ClickHole from its previous owner G/O Media (which also owns ClickHole’s soon-to-be-former parent company, The Onion) for a deal BuzzFeed reports to be less than $1m.

For ClickHole, the acquisition is a win

The deal may not offer a lot of cash, but it does offer ClickHole’s employees some much-needed stability.

ClickHole has bounced around under several corporate owners (The Onion was bought first by Univision in 2016 and then private equity company Great Hill Partners in 2019) and recently has struggled with layoffs under its new ownership.

But as a part of this new deal, the employees at ClickHole (there are only 5 of them who work full-time) will now become majority owners of their own company.

And it’s also good news for readers, who can now look forward to more hard-hitting headlines like these:

  • “Making A Difference: For Every Hot Dog This Restaurant Sells, They Donate A Pair Of Glasses To A Hot Dog In Need” (From last year)
  • “Incredibly Frustrating: A Watermark Has Appeared Over Mt. Rushmore” (From last month)

And this isn’t the first time CAH has thought outside the box of cards

Cards Against Humanity made headlines in 2013 for increasing its prices by $5 as part of a Black Friday “anti-sale.” 

In the years since, the company has launched several other highly publicized marketing campaigns, such as:

  • Selling 30k boxes of actual bull sh*t (yep, straight-up poop from bulls), making $180+k
  • Convincing more than 11k people to give them $5 for nothing at all as a joke, making $71+k
  • Livestreaming the digging of a large hole whose excavation continued as long as viewers continued to crowdfund it, raising $100+k

But this deal is no joke

This new acquisition suggests Cards Against Humanity may plan to leverage its past success generating interest in its absurd stunts to create a content (or content marketing) company. 

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✈️ A new study found just 3 of the top 100 international airports passed basic cybersecurity tests

🏝Why Anguilla, a British territory in the Caribbean, became a hot commodity among the Silicon Valley set.

🍄 Are mushrooms the key to the construction industry’s carbon problems?

👨‍🍳 Salt Bae’s workers are getting salty over their boss’s labor practices.

🐕 A long-lost dog was reunited with its owner, 1k miles away — thanks to viral beer cans.

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So are we just putting booze in everything now?

Alcohol is coming for all of your favorite zero-proof drinks. There’s hard cold brew, hard kombucha, and White Claw, White Claw everywhere. 

What’s next? Boozy breakfast smoothies? Boozy protein shakes?

It may sound hard to choke down…

… but Hard Anything is taking a swig out of Big Beer’s glass. Hard seltzer cracked $500m in sales in 2019, according to Nielsen, and grew 200+%. Meanwhile, wine and beer sales have gone flat.

  • Nielsen recently predicted that beer will retool in 2020 by focusing on everything but beer.
  • That means the claws are out for White Claw. Post Malone recently starred in a Super Bowl ad for Bud Light Seltzer.

So the Seltzer Wars are one thing. But… hard kombucha? 

It’s yet another story of changing tastes

Regular kombucha is one of the fastest-growing categories of temperate tipples. The boozy variety might be tapping into the notion that Generation Z isn’t in love with getting smashed:

  • National surveys have shown that rates of past-month alcohol use among people 18 to 25 have declined in recent years.
  • When they do imbibe, experts say they might reach for something that already has a healthy vibe.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll soon be staring at shelves of Mike’s Hard Kale Juice. But pre-mixed drinks are expected to be the next big thing, so a canned cocktail with a plant-based milk isn’t out of the question.

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Why an unlikely alliance of companies wants to chip away at a bedrock internet law

It’s known as one of the foundational laws of the modern internet. And some powerful companies are trying to dismantle it.

The New York Times reports that IBM, Disney, and Marriott are taking aim at Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. 

So what is Section 230, anyway?

Section 230 makes it almost impossible to sue tech giants over the content their users post on their platforms.

Where did it come from?

Climb into the time machine to 1991. Bryan Adams ruled the airwaves, Terminator 2 was blowing up the box office, and dot-com companies were blazing trails in the Wild West of the consumer internet.

Early online service providers CompuServe and Prodigy got wrapped up in court cases that were responsible for Section 230’s rise. 

Congress created it to encourage companies like them to keep 1 hand on the wheel — that is, to have at least some role in moderating what users post.

Why does 230 matter now?

Today, the law is regarded as a giant shield. It basically protects Facebook, Google, and others from being held responsible for what users do online.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle are calling for changes, so IBM and its allies see opportunity. They’re not all attacking 230 for the same reasons, though:

  • Disney is worried about the spread of illegal activity overseas. 
  • Marriott wants to make it harder for Airbnb to fight hotel regulations.

Any changes could come with unintended consequences

Congress updated Section 230 in 2018 to crack down on websites that aid sex trafficking. But some activists say those changes only made life more dangerous for sex workers.

» Judgment day for 230?
The Hustle says…

If you’re as prone to losing your wallet as Adam is, try Ekster. These cash-carriers are trackable worldwide… even though it’s probably at the bar around the corner.  

It’s not enough to just *be* a photographer. You also need to let people know you’re a photographer, which you can do with this excellent camera mug.

Your small biz is missing out on an essential marketing opp. Learn how to make the most of Google’s My Business profile with this guide.*

*This is a sponsored post.

Dotdash’s evergreen empire just got even more evergreen

Although other ad-based media publishers seem to be struggling, the digital publisher Dotdash (formerly About.com) has carved out success by featuring evergreen content — content that’s not pegged to the news cycle.

And now, Dotdash is expanding its evergreen empire by buying 2 sites that publish evergreen content… about evergreens. 

Yes, we’re talking about evergreen TREES, people

That’s right: The 2 newest pieces of Dotdash’s portfolio, TreeHugger and Mother Nature Network, both feature content about trees and other greenery. 

The 2 sites fit Dotdash’s portfolio because:

  • They feature content about a popular topic with a well-established audience (sustainability)
  • They feature “service content” — stories that tell people how to calculate the environmental footprint of their meat consumption, for example — that’s not focused on breaking news

Dotdash shows that ad-based media still works…

… especially when it’s not reliant on breaking news and when it caters to loyal, niche audiences.

Dotdash, which is profitable and did $160m in revenue last year, has built its entire strategy around launching (or acquiring) niche content sites instead of flashy news sites.

Some of the portfolio sites (and their respective niches) that Dotdash has:

Self-launched…

  • Investopedia (investing)
  • The Spruce (home design)
  • TripSavvy (vacation travel)

And acquired…

  • Byrdie (beauty)
  • Brides (weddings)
  • Liquor.com (booze culture)
» Niches make riches

🎧 Customers are willing to pay big $$$ to bypass the BS in dating apps

Online dating can be brutal, but it doesn’t have to be.

This week on My First Million, we chat with Amanda Bradford, founder of The League, to dive into the world of online dating and learn how she founded her company while finishing her MBA, met her husband through her own app, tested subscription conversion without even building it, and how she got her first 400 users on launch day. Sounds like a good match…

Listen to the episode now: Apple / Spotify / Google Play

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