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‘People are crying out for something different’: The business of satire

Satire is a great, if risky, way of promoting a brand and cutting through a noisy market but for stand alone publishers it’s a difficult way to make money, the audience at last week’s Publish conference heard.

Melina Cruikshank, chief editorial and marketing officer at Domain, described how the Avalon Now series was a great example of content marketing but speed and being prepared to take risks was key to its success.

“People are crying out for something a little bit different:” Moderator Paul Dovas, James Schloeffel, Piers Grove and Melina Cruikshank

“We use this as a form of marketing ourselves,” said Cruikshank during the ‘Beyond Satire: How Funny News Became Big Business’ panel.

“I think the thing about content marketing is you get a lot of people who try and do pieces of content but they’re not authentic.

“For us there’s no approval process, some guys come in and pitch it and if it makes us laugh then it’s going to make other people laugh and that’s how it’s gone so viral. It’s not always going to work.”

“It’s a channel, that’s how I explain it internally. I tell people we have multiple channels, we have outdoor, we have TVC, we have sponsorship of The Block, this is a digital channel that we use to reach new audiences that wouldn’t normally read Domain.

“When we reach these audiences we have their data and we can retarget them. In the end it’s worth it for all the data we get, but at the end of the day it’s all about growing the audience.”

While Domain used the series Avalon Now and its successor The Circle to drive reach, those trying to make money from purely satirical websites find things harder.

“I don’t think satire particularly sets us apart from the rest of the publishing industry,” Piers Grove, co-founder and publisher of The Betoota Advocate. “The problems the publishing industry are going through are very much the same ones we’ve got.

The Betoota Advocate team found providing branded content and selling their own beer were ways to monetize their business.

“In the early days, we used to joke there’s only three things they’re predisposed to buying, which is alcohol, gambling and porn. So we stood back and looked at our audience who are not rich, they’re young people.”

“So if we could get them to drink our beer instead, not only would that create a deeper sense of community among our audience but hopefully we could sponge fifty cents out of those schooners.

“That’s how we came to a business model and we’re continuing to expend that through events and things like that, so how can we monetize the community that identify with our content rather than the content itself.

“You need to know and identify your audience. You need to appeal and write to them, we definitely skew towards men and I think that’s really picking up on a lot of the sports content that goes through there and the lavish bloke culture is very much built into Betoota and we’re proud of that.”

The Shovel’s James Schloeffel believes satire can be an effective way of getting a message across and his site was born out of the frustration of cutting through a crowded, noisy market.

“If you rewind to 2012 when the Shovel started, the Australian political landscape was even crazier than it is now,” he said.

“I was writing opinion articles at various news outlets but politics wasn’t really cutting it for me. We had this clusterfuck of weirdness going on with Tony Abbott mark one, Kevin Rudd mark two, we had Julie Gillard in there and straight news wasn’t working. So I started writing satire.

“It struck a chord, people were crying out for something a little bit different. The thing I love about satire is that you can do things traditional reporting can’t do – it can get to the truth a lot more quickly sometimes. It can cut through the bullshit.

“A great satirical headline can say in eight words what might take 800 words for a traditional article to say.”

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