Amusing Ourselves to Depth

Greg Beato, from Reason Magazine

Online it attracts more than 2 million readers a week. Type onion into Google, and The Onion pops up first. Type the into Google, and The Onion pops up first.

But type “best practices for newspapers” into Google, and The Onion is nowhere to be found. Maybe it should be. At a time when traditional newspapers are frantic to divest themselves of their newsy, papery legacies, The Onion
takes a surprisingly conservative approach to innovation. As much as it
has used and benefited from the Web, it owes much of its success to
low-tech attributes readily available to any paper but nonetheless in
short supply: candor, irreverence, and a willingness to offend.

While other newspapers desperately add gardening sections, ask readers to share their favorite bratwurst recipes, or throw their staffers to ravenous packs of bloggers for online question-and-answer sessions, The Onion has focused on reporting the news. The fake news, sure, but still the news. It doesn’t ask readers to post their comments at the end of stories, allow them to rate stories on a scale of one to five, or encourage citizen-satire. It makes no effort to convince readers that it really does understand their needs and exists only to serve them. The Onion’s journalists concentrate on writing stories and then getting them out there in a variety of formats, and this relatively old-fashioned approach to newspapering has been tremendously successful.