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Feb. 4, 2020, 12:30 p.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Hanaa' Tameez   |   February 4, 2020

The happiest media news of 2020 (so far) is upon us: G/O Media — the controversial parent company of Deadspin, The Onion, and Gizmodo — has sold its lifestyle satire site ClickHole for an undisclosed amount to the game company Cards Against Humanity. It will now operate independently as a majority employee-owned company.

Cards Against Humanity cofounder Max Temkin told BuzzFeed News that Cards would provide financial support and act as an advisor should ClickHole need one. Its current staff consists of just five people.

“We’re leaving a place with a very robust editorial infrastructure to essentially go build a new digital media company from scratch,” Steve Etheridge, editor-in-chief of ClickHole, told BuzzFeed News. “Cards is giving us total freedom to do our thing, but that freedom comes with a lot of new responsibility, and we really just want to get it right. Our goal is to make ClickHole better than ever before.”

Cards Against Humanity is a party game where players put down white cards to finish a sentence or thought listed on a black card. The player with the black card then chooses the funniest option. Temkin started the company with his friends in high school and launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund it. In the past, the game has been scrutinized for crossing various lines of taste and propriety. But it’s also dabbled in the world of media — like its founding of the Chicago Podcast Cooperative five years ago. Melody Kramer called it “the most exciting company in media” for its unorthodox mix of side projects.

The Onion, meanwhile, launched ClickHole in 2014 to parody the sort of viral internet content produced by BuzzFeed and Upworthy. It’s particularly known for its absurd quizzes and its politics sites PatriotHole and ResistanceHole. (Current top headlines on those two: “I May Not Agree With Everything Trump Says, But It’s My Duty As An American To Repeat All Of His Talking Points Basically Verbatim” and “Resistance Win: When One Of Her Students Wore A MAGA Hat To Class, This Incredible Teacher Stopped Having Sex With Him After School.”)

As a G/O Media property, ClickHole has faced much of the same turbulence as its sister sites. BuzzFeed News reporter Katie Notopoulos explains:

In its short existence, ClickHole has changed hands multiple times. Univision purchased its parent company, Onion Inc., in 2016. That same year, Univision also purchased what was left of Gawker Media. Univision later sold many of its assets, including ClickHole, as well as sites like Jezebel, Deadspin, and The Root to private equity firm Great Hill Partners as G/O Media. The transition has not been smooth. Two of the most senior staffers at ClickHole were laid off by new management in April 2019. G/O Media writers have routinely criticized and mocked the company’s CEO, Jim Spanfeller. Politics site Splinter was shuttered, and after a feud with management over editorial independence, the entire staff of Deadspin quit.

G/O Media announced last month that it plans to relaunch the Deadspin and move the operations to Chicago from New York.

In its own news release published in a Google Doc, ClickHole said: “We are thrilled that Cards Against Humanity has made the very ill-advised financial decision to give us the funding we need to buy business supplies, such as staplers and TI-83 graphing calculators. They are giving us the rare opportunity to work with total creative freedom and to run our business with zero oversight, which will undoubtedly result in us bankrupting our company. This can only end in disaster.”

ClickHole will also relaunch its site and story archive on a new platform, according to its release. On Monday it published a story saying it’s “temporarily going on standby” due to its only computer becoming infested with crickets.

The exterminator said this was the “most crickets he’d ever seen in one place,” and he said that if the computer had been made by a better company, there would probably be only a few dozen crickets instead of the several hundred crickets we are currently dealing with.

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