March 27, 2007 — -- Dubbing itself the "Undisputed Leader in 24-Hour News," the Onion news publication is bringing its brand of humor online with the launch of its first online newscast on the Onion Network News, or ONN.
The "serious" news outlet claims it will present information "faster, harder, scarier" and will be "all-knowing." While the latest development in bogus news bulletins doesn't exactly have major news outlets quaking in their boots, it will certainly go up against more established spoof television broadcasts, such as "The Daily Show," "The Colbert Report" and "Saturday Night Live's" "Weekend Update."
However, the Onion's President Sean Mills likens the ONN online newscast to that of a more traditional network newscast.
"Colbert, 'The Daily Show,' Fox News, these shows are all kinds of parodies of what we do," said Mills jokingly in an interview with ABC News. "This is news with a level of seriousness that is beyond what those companies are doing. There's no winking and nodding to the camera. This is real, hard, unvarnished journalism."
While the ONN webcast may look like your run-of-the-mill news show, it separates itself from the pack with outrageous headlines such as "Bush Calls Up Civil War Re-Enactors for Iraq Duty," and preposterous tongue-in-cheek pieces. This week's spot features a former executive who is forced to work at T.G.I. Friday's after his job is outsourced to an illegal immigrant who will work for significantly lower pay and fewer vacation days -- all of which are delivered with an amazingly stiff upper lip.
And it's all possible due to the "vast" resources of the Onion.
"We are all over the world," Mills said. "We have bureaus in 147 different countries and are broadcast in over 200 different languages … I think there is a demand for a 24-hour news network that isn't a parody like 'The Daily Show' … People want to get the truth with a level of seriousness and integrity that only the Onion can bring."
Not surprisingly, ONN's "awarding-winning" Brandon Armstrong takes his job as the newscast's lead anchor very seriously. "Here [at the Onion News Network] we are very serious. We have to perform in a certain way because we are dealing with major issues of life and death, of the country, of politics, and whatever," he said.
Unlike its competition, however, the Onion's webcast is making the most of today's technological advances and its viewers' Internet savvy.
While Viacom, the parent company of Comedy Central, filed suit against Google Inc.'s YouTube after unauthorized clips of "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" were released on YouTube's Web site, the Onion is more tolerant of video-sharing and, in fact, encourages fans to promulgate ad-supported clips throughout the Web.
For now, the ONN's newscast will put out two new video clips per week with hopes of increasing that number as time goes on. And, despite the satirical nature of its reporting, the newscast's staff, consisting of eight people, has the responsibility of giving their segments a professional, and perhaps legitimate, look and feel.
In all seriousness, however, the ONN is hoping to profit from its foray into online news. Over the past four years, the Onion, similar to many of its more conventional counterparts, has seen a drastic shift in its advertising revenue.
After all, despite its comedic content, the Onion is a business and must find a way to finance its publication. So far, several companies, including Dewar's Scotch, Hyundai and Red Stripe Beer, have already thrown their support behind the blooming broadcast.
But today all eyes are on the launch of the ONN's newscast and this week's featured video segments, which brings some distinct changes for the brand. "The paper is a different venue," Armstrong said. "They have more room for words. We, on the other hand, are depending more on extensive graphics and more glitz and high-tech swooshy sounds."
In closing Armstrong said, "the Onion News Network has one of the most prestigious reputations in the country … in the future, we hope, of course, to be bigger than Fox News, more condescending that CNN, and more friendly than your local newscast."