Publishing newspapers—the kind that get print on your fingers, and that you can take to the toilet— is an increasingly tricky business, and The Onion media empire has not been immune to its fickle, often difficult nature.
Several years ago, Onion, Inc. decided to fundamentally change the way we distribute The Onion and A.V. Club in print. We began franchising the newspaper to partners around the country, leaving the complex business of selling print advertising and distributing physical papers to others. At the same time we doubled down on expanding the growing core of our business in the digital world, which today constitutes the vast majority of the company’s various ventures.
On one hand, we’ve seen positive growth, with new Onion print editions sprouting up across the country On the other, we’ve seen papers close in several cities—a sad conclusion but one that is hardly unique to our publication. This week, The Onion will cease to offer a print edition in the New York City area, a difficult decision made slightly easier by the fact that New York is the single biggest market for the online editions of both publications, with literally millions of Onion and A.V. Club stories, graphics, and videos consumed each and every month at theonion.com and avclub.com.
“Our focus in recent years has been on the digital side of our business,” said Steve Hannah, President and CEO of The Onion, “and both The Onion and A.V. Club have expanded their audiences. We have every reason to believe this growth will continue. Meanwhile, we never forget that our roots are in print, and we do everything possible to support our franchise partners around the country. Unlike cities like Providence or Chicago or Denver or Austin, we have been unable to find a franchise partner in New York, a very crowded and competitive market for print advertising. If a viable partner emerged, we would be eager to resurrect print in New York. Unlike a lot of mainstream publications, we have never had a problem with readership.”
Today, print editions of The Onion and A.V. Club are distributed in eight cities.