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Ridiculous news grabs readers’ attentions. It doesn’t even have to be real news.

The Onion, a popular American satirical news website, often posts articles parodying the political and social lives of Americans and foreign nationals. As a fan of the website, I wondered if anything similar existed in the Czech Republic. Without any hesitation, a resident assistant I asked quickly pointed me to Infobaden News .

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Screenshot from LinkedIn, courtesy of the author

Scanning the site–through Google Translate as it is only in Czech–I found that it was fairly similar in style to The Onion. However, there was a big problem: the last post seemed to be from December 2015.

Curious about the lack of up-to-date articles and videos, I decided to check the website’s social networking sites. On Facebook, only two of the page’s over 12,000 followers inquired about the website’s lack of activity (rough translations provided by Facebook’s translate function).

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Screenshot from Facebook, courtesy of the author

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Screenshot from Facebook, courtesy of the author

The site’s Twitter page, with just over a thousand followers, not only had zero complaints over lack of posts but also had few likes and retweets. Its last post, from December 2015, seemed to have gone unseen with zero likes and retweets.

Moving on, I navigated onto Infobaden’s YouTube page. For a site that works mostly with video clips, it had a surprisingly small number of videos (only 14) uploaded onto YouTube. Once again, none of the videos’ comments had any mention of the site’s posting activity.

Searching a few more social networking sites, I encountered participation in just one other. Infobaden has a LinkedIn page, which although useful as a company branding site, offered very little information and only features one employee. In terms of followers, there are only five.

Reflecting on Infobaden’s social media presence, I wondered why it had stopped posting and, in my eyes, failed. Searching through Google, I found few articles about the site although some, like the magazine Remix seemed to laud its creation and objective: “Although the video sites are actually hysterically funny, what is fantastic about the whole report is that there are people who take it seriously” (rough translation provided by Google Translate).

The Onion, which has similar objectives, is wildly popular compared to Infobaden. According to website ranking system Alexa, TheOnion.com is the 654th most popular website in the US and 2,136th worldwide. With over 5 million likes on its Facebook page, 845,000 subscribers on YouTube, and over 9 million followers on Twitter, it is thriving with high future prospects.

Why then, did Infobaden fail even though the site was very popular at one point? My theory is that it failed to garner an appropriate fan base because it didn’t make the best use of the social networking sites available to them.

According to Alexa, Facebook and YouTube are the third and fourth most popular websites in the Czech Republic. With a relatively high follower base on Facebook, Infobaden failed to keep its audience engaged. When two of its supporters spoke up about lack of activity, there was no response which may have been discouraging for others viewing the site.

Furthermore, Infobaden failed to make use of one of its best options–YouTube. Ranging from over 500,000 views on one video to just over 1,500 views on another, it appears that the site had the potential for great success on that particular social networking site but did not capitalize on it. With just 1,325 subscribers for 14 videos, it failed to retain viewers’ attention and commitment to the site. One of the videos high view count proves that people were visiting the site but with only fourteen video options, they may have left disappointed.

Had they added more videos, YouTube could have worked as an advertisement, a jumping off point linking to the site. Furthermore, Infobaden could have employed tactics such as using hashtags in order to make certain posts trend. Infobaden’s tweets have no hashtags whereas The Onion occasionally employs them to garner more attention.

Although I wasn’t able to find any official information regarding the site, it seems to me that Infobaden functioned like a fad. Popular at its inception because it was copying another popular concept, it bloomed and succeeded in capturing the audience of many Czechs. However attention spans are short, especially on the internet where there are so many websites competing for your clicks. Infobaden did not take the necessary precautions in securing their audience’s attention. They should have striven for more follows and more subscriptions, that way they could have stayed in the eyes of their consumers. Instead, audience numbers dwindled until there was no point in continuing to make videos and writing articles for such a small following.

I am convinced Infobaden really had a chance. Firstly, the large number of views on one of its videos means it went viral at some point. Secondly, the resident assistant who pointed me to the site after I asked about satirical websites was able to name it off the top of his head within seconds. I think Infobaden’s situation really exemplifies the importance of social media networking for modern-day companies. We have evolved to the point where social media participation and engagement can make or break a company.

Featured image courtesy of Funk Dooby

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4 thoughts on “Few Tears Shed for Local “The Onion” Failure

  1. As an Onion lover, I think that satirical news sites like Infobaden do have a great position in the social media world, and I agree with your argument that Infobaden underutilized its social networks, which may have contributed to its failure. Satirical news has the fantastic headlines and the humor that tends to make online content go viral and hit thousands or millions of shares. I also think that it can have a lot of resonance and relatability to its audience- I recently saw someone share an Onion article titled “Entire Meal Consumed While Testing If It Needs More Time in Microwave” with the just the caption “Same.” Which makes it seem difficult for Infobaden to have failed, especially since, as you noted, it has at least some brand-recognition among Czechs.

    I wonder if, in addition to the organizational and social media issues that you pointed out, if there is also a cultural reason for its downfall. Satire, I think, requires progressive audiences that enjoy cultural critiques of their own culture. And as we’ve been discussing in class about the large amount of xenophobia and circulation of hate speech on Czech social media, I’m curious if the ‘liberalized’ Czech population has not reached a point of critical mass in order for satirical news to be widely appreciated. You noted that the Infobaden Facebook page has over 12,000 followers, but if there are about 4 million Czechs on Facebook (as of 2012 according to this article [http://businessculture.org/eastern-europe/czech-republic/social-media-guide/], and it’s surely grown since then), that means only 0.3% of Czech Facebook users engage with it. That’s fairly low, especially since the agency started using Facebook in 2011. While maybe this is due to the causes you discussed, perhaps it’s more truly a reflection of Czech sentiment about poking fun at their society and culture. Also, in the sharing culture of social media, perhaps even those who would follow Infobaden still failed to contribute to its circulation because they would fear the reaction to sharing these posts among their personal network.

  2. This is a really interesting subject to cover. I think Theresa’s above idea about Czech citizens reacting to poking fun at their culture is a really interesting idea too. As an American, I love seeing satire about my country and my culture, because questioning and poking fun at institutions has always been encouraged in my country in my lifetime. I feel as if satire is a big part of American culture, and one of the ways we like to work out our issues and conflicts. Take, for example, The Onion, The Daily Show, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Saturday Night Live, all of which shed light on issues using humor, and are American pop culture staples because of it. I wonder if the view on satire and practice of experiencing it is different for Czech citizens, especially those who were alive during communist ruling. Even though the Czech Republic is now a much more Western government than it was 25 years ago, perhaps some of the internalized aversion to media that would have been censored remains.

    Of course, it is also entirely possible that a social media following just is not as important to Infobaden News as it is to most American brands and publications. Perhaps they had more of a following in the past and have recently stopped producing on the site, therefore losing followers and halting content production. Perhaps one day Infobaden will rise from Facebook’s and YouTube’s ashes as a social media phoenix, but more likely than not it seems Infobaden News is an abandoned website left to collect dust on the internet.

  3. Wow, this is quite a bizarre case, but perhaps not as uncommon as we might suspect. After reading your post, I immediately went to the Infobaden site to check it out myself. The first thing I noticed was how professional and reliable it looks. Just like The Onion, Infobaden contains catchy headlines, caters to many different segments, and contains ads throughout the site as well. And just as you pointed out, it’s curious to me as to why they have not released any sort of statement or update discussing why they have not continued to release content. My first guess would be lack of funding or perhaps lack of reader engagement. I can’t speak on Infobaden, but I can speak on The Onion. What The Onion does so well is capturing its audiences attention without overtly revealing the message that their content is satirical, people must do a bit of digging before they conclude that what they are reading is completely false and just poking fun at current social and political issues. This topic of satirical news makes me wonder if they are even a ‘thing’ in other countries. Would sites like this even be permitted to exist in countries where government control is extremely excessive and censorship is prevalent? The cynicism and harsh criticism that comes along with satirical sites might not be something that some governments want there public to be able to access to, as they might provoke the public to think critically in certain ways that might not align with their beliefs. I feel like countries like China and Russia might definitely ban sites like this from existing because of their strict policies. I think I might definitely delve into this topic deeper myself, as it is very interesting to think about in terms of free speech and the legality of it in certain corners around the world.

  4. Great article! I love satirical sites like Clickhole and The Onion. It’s interesting that Infobaden didn’t do well, given the Czech Republic’s notoriously dark sense of humor. It could be that social media use hasn’t become the popular means of spreading material like this. As Americans, we are used to Facebook being the primary source of spreading entertainment material; but Czechs seem to use social media differently. For instance, it seems that spreading non-informational articles on social media hasn’t quite caught on. Most Czechs seem to appreciate more serious articles online, and humor doesn’t translate as well.

    There also could be a cultural element to Infobaden’s failure. As Americans, we appreciate poking fun at our culture—particularly our political process. It seems this isn’t always the case in the Czech Republic. Despite having a rather comical leader, many Czechs prefer to express their disapproval in a serious manner rather than through light-hearted comedy. This creates an interesting dichotomy in the country, because Czech culture is markedly more liberal in its approach to sexuality and profanity in the media—particularly in advertising. Despite this, I am hard-pressed to find any comedic articles about the country, president or political process—though there are plenty of informational articles regarding these topics.

    This article sparked my curiosity about the nature of Czech humor. Czech humor has often been described as “dark humor”. As an author Emily Prucha puts it, “Czech humor, often known as ‘black humor’, is a special blend of irony and sarcasm. It’s negative and critical, and sometimes too truthful for my taste, but it has lauded a place as a first-line of defense in a relatively passive society” (http://praguemonitor.com/2011/09/23/czech-humor-sos). This humor may be hard to recognize from an American point of view, but with practice the subtleties can be learned.

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