Making New Fake News
August 31, 2005 5:46 PM   Subscribe

How the Onion Got a Facelift, and in the process offered their full news archives from 1996 to the present available online for free. The Onion A.V. Club also finds a new home.
posted by Robot Johnny (56 comments total)
I saw the announcement of a new design this morning and couldn't wait to see it and then was totally underwhelmed, especially considering the guy from subtraction did it, but after reading his post shortly after, it all makes sense.

I remember back in 98 or so, I would regularly get list mail or mail from relatives that "fell" for an onion joke, thinking it was a real newspaper site. I suspect that might happen once again with some regularity and I have come to love the new straight-faced design.

I guess I was expecting it to look slick and designy, like the AV Club site, but it works really well as a news site parody.
posted by mathowie at 5:49 PM on August 31, 2005

It seems like it's just designed to expose you to more ads.
posted by VanRoosta at 5:52 PM on August 31, 2005

I'm thrilled to see the Smoove B archives are back up. My productivity is now plummeting.
posted by mullingitover at 5:52 PM on August 31, 2005

Why are the section headings all implemented as flash objects?
posted by mr_roboto at 5:53 PM on August 31, 2005

It's about time they reopened their archives. I remember many wasted hours reading those in high school. Back when they were always funny.
posted by kyleg at 6:00 PM on August 31, 2005

I enjoyed the announcement email:

A Message from The Onion Board of Editors

Dear Reader,

Since 1931, it has been Onion, Inc.'s corporate policy to avoid written or verbal contact with the common reader. Our bylaws clearly state that exposure to the masses undermines our journalistic impartiality.

It is with great repugnance, therefore, that we communicate this necessary information directly to you this Monday, August 29, 2005.

As of today, all Onion Premium accounts have been terminated, and the service itself has been deleted from the Internet.

As of Wednesday morning, a new ad-enriched web site will debut, delighting readers like yourself with its winning combination of hard-hitting news and cutting-edge corporate sponsorship.


The Onion Board Of Editors

P.S. Our undersecretaries have informed us that some of you have written confused and windy "e-mails" requesting "refunds" on the "remaining portions" of your Premium subscriptions. While we voted unanimously in favor of taking this matter to the highest courts in the land, our legal department is advising that we settle your account in the coming weeks.

posted by leapingsheep at 6:03 PM on August 31, 2005

My all-time favorite is Roof on Fire Claims Lives of 43 Party People. (Their search isn't very good; this article wasn't in the first 60 results for "roof fire party people.")
posted by kirkaracha at 6:23 PM on August 31, 2005

Why are the section headings all implemented as flash objects?

They're using Scalable Inman Flash Replacement (sIFR) to replace HTML headings with Flash. It's so they can use the typeface they want for their design without having to produce graphics.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:31 PM on August 31, 2005

The site is annoyingly ugly with the little 'adblock' tabs (from the Firefox extension adblock) coming off of every Flash element.

It almost makes me wish tables were still the standard for web design.

posted by anarcation at 6:32 PM on August 31, 2005

My favorite: Fuck Everything, We're Doing Five Blades

I almost bought a subscription just for this article.
posted by cmicali at 6:32 PM on August 31, 2005

Yeah, I like the Five Blades one, too. I've wanted to find this one for the longest time. It reminds me of my best friend.

And a big thumbs up to the makeover. Even after they moved to New York and went big time (and sold out! *ducks*), the site design has always been quite lame. This is quite an improvement, especially the A.V. Club.
posted by zardoz at 6:45 PM on August 31, 2005

Aha, it's intentionally sucky. I wondered why people were linking to this fancy new design.
posted by smackfu at 6:49 PM on August 31, 2005

Luckily, you can kill the sIFR with Firefox's Adblock extension. Just block this URL:

After doing that and reloading, everything moved around a pixel or so, but more importantly the suck of sIFR and the Adblock tabs all disappeared.
posted by jepler at 6:57 PM on August 31, 2005

Whoa -- Midstate Office Supply! This was linked to off their Herbert Kornfeld page. Bad ass!

Full refund within 60 days o' purchase. Box it up like you got it originally so it ain't all fucked up when it come back 2 us. Only we ain't gonna be 2 pleased y'all wasted our time with this pussy returnin' shit. Tha H-Dog gonna remember that.
posted by rolypolyman at 7:01 PM on August 31, 2005

Yes! Owls are assholes!
posted by carter at 7:06 PM on August 31, 2005

Here's a previous discussion on the pros and cons.

That brought back some wonderful memories. Hey zeek, this horse ain't dead yet!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:10 PM on August 31, 2005

Luckily, you can kill the sIFR with Firefox's Adblock extension. Just block this URL:

Going a little further, you can block sIFR stupidity across the entire interweb by adding this URL to AdBlock:

And that's the end of that, thank goodness.
posted by reklaw at 7:15 PM on August 31, 2005

As long as I can once again read "Our Long National Nightmare of Peace and Prosperity is Finally Over" - for free, no less - they can use whatever interface they want.
posted by yhbc at 7:23 PM on August 31, 2005

Fantastic. Now the whole world will know:

You must have my seed!
posted by Gamblor at 7:33 PM on August 31, 2005

I hope AV Club is still in the print version. That's the best part. The rest, well, it's only good for one or two chuckles a week, max. And that's on a good week.
posted by fungible at 7:34 PM on August 31, 2005

Free archives: good. Now you can read the stories from back when they were actualy funny. Like 1999.

The new design is very ugly.
posted by delmoi at 7:47 PM on August 31, 2005

The onion sucks, but I check in every week without fail.

The AV Club rules, but they are constantly Forcing me to watch reviewed movies that my better judgement advises me against; Garden State, Broken Flowers, etc. etc. I did like The Life Aquatic, but I guess I was the only one. Oh, well.

Savage Love rules too. It's down-right nasty at times (a good thing) and VERY informative.
posted by snsranch at 7:52 PM on August 31, 2005

Ok, I rescind my praise. You've all convinced me: Change is bad, and everything used to be better back in the good old days.

Does anyone in here ever have anything to say that isn't bitchy? Are your arms being twisted to read a free publication?
posted by Gamblor at 7:55 PM on August 31, 2005

I did like The Life Aquatic, but I guess I was the only one. Oh, well.

That movie ruled! Garden State Seemed like scientolgest propaganda to me.
posted by delmoi at 7:56 PM on August 31, 2005

Hmm. They seem to have somehow mixed a lot of their later Iraq war stories into the edition that should have been the first one after 9/11, so the two events now appear to be somehow connected in the readers' minds.

Coincidence? Or conspiracy????
posted by yhbc at 7:57 PM on August 31, 2005

See? There's the article I was searching for - the "God Angrily Clarifies 'Do Not Kill' Rule" one - and it says it is from issue 37-34. The link to issue 37-34, however, takes you to the Iraq page I linked to above.

* goes for tinfoil *
posted by yhbc at 8:00 PM on August 31, 2005

Why on earth is anyone annoyed by the flash headline fonts? They are so seamless that I didn't know what you guys were complaining about -- they look so much like images. I think they look great, though the slight refresh-display reminds you they are there.
posted by mathowie at 8:04 PM on August 31, 2005

When I try to access the A.V. Club, I get a "Forbidden: You don't have permission to access / on this server" message.
posted by Roach at 8:08 PM on August 31, 2005

Here's the one that's had me on the edge of registering for Premium.
posted by rafter at 8:11 PM on August 31, 2005

* patiently folds tinfoil, waits for the techie-type people to tell me it's just a database issue *

but - what if the techie-types are in on it!?!
posted by yhbc at 8:15 PM on August 31, 2005

I don't like that they renamed "What do you think?" to "American Voices." Weak.
posted by rafter at 8:17 PM on August 31, 2005

I just stayed up too late reading the Jean Teasdale homepage. Jean is my favourite thing about the Onion. She's so deeply sad and pathetic that she makes me feel better about me. So I loved her site. Her online resume and fan fiction are just a few of the highlights.
posted by orange swan at 8:55 PM on August 31, 2005

Yeah -- I'm... not thrilled with the redesign of either, really. I don't like how the AVClub looks like a completely different site, and I can't stand that they split the interviews/features up across fifty billion pages (though they do have a print link, so, you know, guess what I'll be clicking every week...). And the front page is so _busy_ now. Blegh. My reaction to it was "Oh, so they're trying to get people to subscribe to the paper version!"

Yeah, I know it's free, and yeah, I'll keep reading it every week, but still. The Onion/AVClub redesigns just keep getting worse and worse, IMHO. (What was wrong with the black-and-white AVClub site? I liked that. And the Onion used to be simple and easy to read. Gimcracks and geegaws don't automatically equal good web design.)
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 8:55 PM on August 31, 2005

Long-Lost Georgia O'Keeffe Watercolor Found (NSFW)

I remeber when I first read that article I was in a pizza place and two cops were sitting across from me reading the onion. They were like, "they can't put that in a free newspaper!"
posted by afu at 9:05 PM on August 31, 2005 [1 favorite]


It appears as if you’re using an unsupported Web browser. For best results, please try one of the following alternatives..."

Hmmmm... Can't use Opera (Mac). Now *that* is funny.
posted by sunexplodes at 9:16 PM on August 31, 2005

My favourite Onion headline, you ask? This one.
posted by Robot Johnny at 9:29 PM on August 31, 2005

My favourite, and apposite for the times:
Why Do All These Homosexuals Keep Sucking My Cock?

posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:54 PM on August 31, 2005

can't find the point/counter-point "no all these horrible things will go wrong in Iraq if we invade/no they won't" one. I'm a bad archive searcher.

But all the ones y'all have pointed out have been hilarious.
posted by hackly_fracture at 10:49 PM on August 31, 2005

It makes it harder to read.

I hate it.
posted by kyrademon at 11:00 PM on August 31, 2005

The August 30, message from the publisher had me laughing out loud.

I can't find my favorite story "Area bassist fellated." I searched "area," bassist" and "fellated" to no avail. As a bassist, I am offended. The search function does indeed appear to be weak, but I will reserve my final judgement, as the redesigners may still be working on it.
posted by wsg at 12:37 AM on September 1, 2005

My favourite headline was along the lines of "Deteriorating Pope Blessing Everything in Sight". Unfortunately the archive search doesn't seem to be everything it could be.

I loved the idea of the Vatican having to build massive underground storage areas for all the 747s JP2 had inadvertently beatified.

Google helped me find a repost of it on another forum. The link from there to the original article doesn't work, however
posted by bouncebounce at 1:08 AM on September 1, 2005

Two of my favorites: Super Monkey Collider Loses Funding" and I Can't Stand My Filthy Hippie Owner
posted by mosk at 1:56 AM on September 1, 2005

I quite like the site. Clean and newspaper-like.

*reads the archives*
posted by flippant at 2:38 AM on September 1, 2005

As a long time reader of The Economist, I was always got a chuckle out of the point-counterpoint one about the guy who had read something in The Economist, but I can't find that article right now and am too busy reading The Economist.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:24 AM on September 1, 2005

I really don't see the point of the flash stuff. It's just a complicated way of doing something very simple in html and css. Could someone enlighten me as to why exactly this site needs the sIFR?

the design doesn't really do anything for me, it seems too busy and cluttered.

On the plus side, I just love the Onion. I first came accross it in rural Tanzania where a Wisconsin Peace Corps Volunteer had it posted out to him. Lovely evenings over a hurricane lamp and a mosquito coil, reading bits out to each other.
posted by quarsan at 3:39 AM on September 1, 2005

Excellent. Now I can go back to analyzing the collected works of T. Herman Zweibel.
posted by Citizen Premier at 4:10 AM on September 1, 2005

What fonts is sIFR used for on the Onion site? They seem to be using common ones. I disabled flash and javascript and the fonts looked exactly the same.
posted by funambulist at 5:01 AM on September 1, 2005

Google Announces Plan To Destroy All Information It Can't Index. A year ago, Google offered to scan every book on the planet for its Google Print project. Now, they are promising to burn the rest.” Ha!
posted by Termite at 5:23 AM on September 1, 2005

I'm trying to find my favorite article, "Babies are Stupid", and failing miserably.

I'm also tried to find more of Amber Richardson's articles by looking up the name of her daughter, Rywanda, and it didn't find anything (even articles where I know it was mentioned).

posted by gnomeloaf at 6:04 AM on September 1, 2005

Yeah, the search function seems to be severely crappy.
posted by Robot Johnny at 6:13 AM on September 1, 2005

My Computer Totally Hates Me
posted by gimonca at 6:20 AM on September 1, 2005

I'm happy to see they added their own RSS feeds. I was getting sick of the News is Free feed which was incomplete and filled with ads.
posted by clgregor at 9:24 AM on September 1, 2005

Aha! Found it, yay! Now back to reading all the fascinating articles in The Economist.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:34 AM on September 1, 2005

I really dislike the new design. It's way too pale, and bland. They should have left well-enough alone.
AVclub has always been my favorite part. I was surprised to read in the 'subtraction' article that it is often overlooked.
posted by Radio7 at 3:34 PM on September 1, 2005

Yeah? I think the new design is great. So fuck you all.
posted by ghastlyfop at 9:49 PM on September 1, 2005

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