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How the Onion Took Branded Content Mainstream and the Benefit to Your Company

The political battle of “real” vs. “fake” is in full swing, and we have to admit we’re riveted. Some of our favorite outlets publish fake news, but we’re not talking about National Enquirer or However, what we do love is The Onion.The Onion is a satirical news site that pairs hilarious imagery with the razor-sharp syntax to deconstruct everything from politics and American culture to film reviews and gaming. With more than 50 million monthly readers and a social reach upwards of 250 million, needless to say, The Onion has a wide following that also includes readers who take their reports at face value. You might ask yourself, “how is a fake news site so successful?”The answer is branded content.Branded content is a big part of the current media landscape, and is defined as content that features third party products, brands, and sponsors posted by media companies (like The Onion). Following unprecedented success in branded content, The Onion formed Onion Labs, a branch of the company focused on creating hilarious campaigns for brands to reach readers that don't have to rely on banners ads or pop-ups, which are traditional favorites of online publications.The Onion’s branded content accounts for roughly 80% of the company’s revenue, and there are numerous benefits:

  1. People actually want to read it.Branded content is all about storytelling, and by creating valuable content with a compelling angle, users will be happy to read it from start to finish.
  2. Branded content goes viral.An excellent piece of branded content has a good chance of getting shared across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Users who share your branded content are – in a sense – acting as brand ambassadors, and in a world of two-way communication, getting your content shared by brand evangelists is priceless.
  3. Highlight your brand in a positive light.Many companies still harness the power of banner ads, native advertising, and splash pages to promote their message, but the journalistic nature of branded content is quickly becoming the preferred method to highlight brands in a positive light. Branded content is the perfect delivery method for advertisers to appeal to an audience that has a real chance of becoming customers.
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