October 29th, 2013 A Web Developer Walks into a Bar: Exploiting Laughter for Fun and Profit


On October 29, 2013, OLC attended the panel event, “A Web Developer Walks into a Bar: Exploiting Laughter for Fun and Profit” hosted by HUGE. The panelists of the event were: Jonathan Perelman, VP of Agency and Industry at Buzzfeed, Susanna Wolff, Editor-in-Chief at CollegeHumor, and Matt Mcdonagh, VP of National Sales at the Onion Labs.

The event was moderated by Alexandra Lutz, VP of Strategy at HUGE.

Alexandra Lutz, VP of Strategy at HUGE, first asked a question that concerned the panelists’ “sweet spots” wherein, whether or not do the panelists’ websites/companies rely on specific types of content to generate site activity and/or target a specific audience/demographic?


Susanna Wolff, Editor-in-Chief at CollegeHumor answered that “sweet spots” aren’t as relevant as they were in the past since people generally don’t go to websites anymore. Content is often created or shared on social media platforms and as such, there is no longer a defined voice to draw a target audience from. However, Wolff adds that social media, from a business standpoint, has made it possible to gauge the social attitudes towards certain products and lets businesses get the general gist of “what people want.”


For Onion Lab’s Matt Mconagh, VP of National Sales, the fact that the Onion is an established brand forces it to appease their established audience. However, digitalization has enabled the Onion to expand into new fields) and work with new formats that they previously couldn’t have worked on before. Previously, the Onion worked with the format of parodying CNN but now they can work with new ventures such as the Onion: Sports Dome


Jonathan Perelman, VP of Agency and Industry at Buzzfeed, interjected and explained that on Buzzfeed, mostly content that has “sharability” is what is relied upon to generate site activity. As such Buzzfeed makes extensive use of social media and different platforms are used for different purposes.   

Next, Alexandra moved onto another topic of interest that pertained to how humor sites or comedy companies should work with brands and what are the “good and the bad” that come with working with humor.

Matt answered that whether or not there will be pitfalls in using humor to market a product or service really depends on the relationship between the content generators/cultivators and brands. The relationship between the two must be collaborative in order to discern whether or not the brand is compatible with humor or what the brand really wants.  

For Jonathan, there must be a “separation between church and state” between the editors, creative, and brands so that the editors and brands can’t impose their views on the creative.  

In the context of working with brands, Alexandra asked, “How do you gauge the success the success of a campaign?

For Matt, there is “no one metric.” The variable and fickle nature of the audience as well as the constant evolution of content in the digital realm makes it difficult to gauge success on one singularly defined metric.

However, Alex disagreed and for him, there is one metric and it is “social lift.” How easily the advertisement can reproduce itself within social media or how effectively/quickly it can spread within the internet is what makes a campaign successful.

With regards to failed campaigns, Susanna said, “Brands that don’t realize that people don’t like commercials or don’t like being tricked…” and gave the example of a beverage company that tried to impose itself with a “long shot of their product” within the shot of a commercial. Whereby, by trying to trick their audience and imposing themselves into a particular field that didn’t fit with their brand, the campaign incurred the disdain of the general audience.

Jonathan agreed and said that “magic happens when creative and creative align…” and that “Brands shouldn’t try to force themselves into something that they don’t fit into….” Rather than trying to force humor, brands should “highlight their unique attributes.”

The final question asked Alexandra pertained to the subject of trends. “What are the trends of online humor and comedy in the next six to twelve months?”

Susanna believes that there are two trends that are currently occurring in online humor which divide into: people who are dedicated to online web series and memes. Each trend has their own pros and cons with web series having low “sharability” but memes often having low survivability (How long will it last on the internet?)

Jonathan closed off the panel with his view that scalability is the dominant trend for the foreseeable future. Humor/comedy will be light weight, short/quick, and easily assessable so that it can be accessed anywhere (from mobile phones to desktops) and not to mention, anyone can make create it since “not all creators are trained comedians.”