A new satirical project blurs the line between humor and sponsored content.
Have you ever fallen into a Clickhole? Anyone who’s watched an hour disappear on the addictive viral website Buzzfeed knows what that is. Now humor site The Onion is set to create a particular type of Clickhole, an eponymous one that takes on the particular project of lampooning something that’s pretty difficult to lampoon – the modern viral website. According to the preview page for the website, which was presented at the Newsfronts presentation in NYC, come June it will be“filled with content so shareable, snackable and clickable, it will rob you of all logic and reason.”
Articles will include humor that lays bare the tricks of the trade (a video called “What this adorable little girl says will melt your heart” that’s actually just a little kid explaining how viral marketing works) and surreal explanation-free listicles, like “Six kinds of hay.” The preview page also offers a step-by-step guide to consuming viral content (as if that were necessary) and also offers a button you can click to your heart’s desire, with encouraging messages meant to reward this sort of mindless behavior.
One reason it’s such a challenge to parody websites like Buzzfeed and its cynically uplifting peer Upworthy is that many of those sites already have a self-mocking quality. Buzzfeed, in particular, prides itself as a platform for content creation as well as a more conventional gatekeeper for memes, and it’s sometimes difficult to even draw the line between what’s a product of its users and what comes from its editorial team. Past successful attempts by its main brand, the Onion, to lampoon the smarmier side of internet also call into question why there needs to be an entirely separate project devoted to this specific type of parody alone.
Maybe it’s just the enormity of the project. Or maybe it’s the reason that clickbait and sponsored content exists in first place: some actual sponsorship deals. The extent to which Clickhole is sponsored is unclear; a Newsweek write-up suggests that it may be engaging in a double feat, saying “the site has managed to mock sponsored content while maybe actually capitalizing on sponsored content in the process.” Impatient to get your fill? Try all the parody Twitter accounts that have preceded this larger effort, including the now-defunct @vrunt, @UpWorthIt and the lesser-known @Buzz__Kill. You’ll never know which one will be next to get a sponsorship deal.