What happened to CollegeHumor?

CollegeHumor is an entertainment website created by Josh Abramson and Ricky Van Veen in 1999. The original site featured humorous viral videos and other daily content that appealed to college-age students who were not averse to online advertising.

At its peak, the CollegeHumor website attracted more than 100 million monthly page views with many of the network’s writers, comics, and actors earning celebrity status and influencing television shows such as Silicon Valley, Rick and Morty, and Saturday Night Live.

In early 2020, CollegeHumor was sold by parent company IAC to long-time employee Sam Reich who was also its Chief Creative Officer. The website was shut down and over 100 staff lost their jobs effective immediately.

Facebook partnership

Some consider CollegeHumor’s relationship with Facebook to be the start of its downfall. Cognizant of beating rival YouTube, Facebook inflated viewership numbers in the order of 150 to 900% which caused CollegeHumor to start posting native videos there.

Besides the fabricated numbers, the main problem with this strategy was that there was no way for third parties such as CollegeHumor to monetize videos on the Facebook platform. In fact, Facebook’s business model involved charging the third party for access to what was effectively its own audience.

Ultimately, CollegeHumor’s website traffic plummeted and by extension, its ad revenue and video production budget. The company tried to address this issue by posting to YouTube but found that many of its videos were censored because of obscene language. In any case, YouTube’s recommendation engine started to favor long-form content over the shorter sketches for which CollegeHumor was known.

Employee retention

As hinted at in the introduction, some of CollegeHumor’s staff were talented individuals that influenced mainstream entertainment. 

Perhaps inevitably, many left the company to pursue other ventures. Co-founder Ryan Van Veen went to work at Facebook as VP of Global Creative Strategy while others went to Disney or venture capital firms.

When ad revenue started to decline, the company found it increasingly difficult to retain employees and produce the same standard of content its audience expected.

Does CollegeHumor still exist?

CollegeHumor continues to operate today in a much smaller capacity. Reich remains at the helm from the company’s Los Angeles headquarters, with the company now focused on comedic news videos uploaded directly to YouTube.

Key takeaways:

  • CollegeHumor is an entertainment website created by Josh Abramson and Ricky Van Veen in 1999. The original site featured humorous videos and other daily content that targeted college-age students.
  • In response to falsified viewer numbers, CollegeHumor started posting native videos on Facebook where it did not have control over its audience or monetization methods. This resulted in a decrease in website traffic and ad revenue.
  • CollegeHumor also suffered from employee retention issues as talented staff left the company to pursue other ventures. With less revenue, it could simply not afford to produce the same standard of content that viewers were accustomed to.

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