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Baratunde Thurston on the evolution of the Onion’s digital strategy

Digital disruptors

Our next digital disruptor once treated his Four Square mayorship of a New York restaurant as if it were a real political campaign. He once played the role of @The_Swine_Flu on Twitter, infecting his followers with messages such as “@The_Swine_Flu has followed you! Yes, you should be scared” and “I’m thinking of mutating. #swineflu.” He even once allowed voyeuristic fans to share his computer screen and watch as he wrote portions of his most recent book  “How to Be Black”. Baratunde Thurston is a digital disruptor – with a comedic bent. 

Thurston is also the former director of digital at the Onion and now the founder of Cultivated Wit, a startup that helps companies use humor to connect with their customers and audience. We sat down with Thurston to explore the relationship between news, technology and comedy. In this clip, Thurston explains how the Onion’s digital strategy evolved over the five years he worked there.

What is striking about the Onion’s digital evolution is that only five years ago, the publication was posting stories to its website every night at midnight. Just take a minute to think about that. There was a time when it was standard for a publication (albeit a satirical one) to put all of its content up once a day. Compare this to the torrent of digital information we find ourselves inundated with now. We don’t expect publications to update once a day; we expect them to add new material by the minute. Five years may not be a long time in the analog world, but it’s a lifetime in digital.