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 immediately lost their jobs.

Founding and SuccessCollegeHumor was founded in 1999 by Josh Abramson and Ricky Van Veen while they were in college. It started as a humor website, featuring articles, videos, and comedic content created by college students.
Digital Comedy HubCollegeHumor became one of the leading online comedy platforms, known for its humorous articles, web series, and original video content. It attracted a large online following and played a significant role in the rise of internet comedy.
Expansion and Ownership ChangesOver the years, CollegeHumor expanded its offerings and launched channels such as “Dorkly” for gaming content. In 2006, it was acquired by InterActiveCorp (IAC), a media conglomerate, which aimed to leverage its digital presence.
Competition and ChallengesCollegeHumor faced increased competition from other online comedy platforms and evolving trends in digital media consumption. The rise of social media and YouTube influencers reshaped the comedy landscape.
Restructuring and LayoffsIn early 2019, CollegeHumor underwent a major restructuring. The company laid off a significant portion of its staff, resulting in job losses and the discontinuation of some projects. The move was a response to financial challenges and changing priorities.
Focus on Subscription ModelAfter the layoffs, CollegeHumor shifted its strategy toward a subscription-based model. It introduced “DROPOUT,” a paid streaming service offering exclusive content and shows for subscribers.
Continued OperationsDespite the restructuring and challenges, CollegeHumor continued to produce content, including original series like “Um, Actually” and “Total Forgiveness.” The platform aimed to maintain its presence in the digital comedy space.
Legacy and InfluenceCollegeHumor played a pivotal role in popularizing internet comedy and launching the careers of various comedians, writers, and content creators. Its influence on online humor culture remained significant.

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 from 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.

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 in the introduction, some of CollegeHumor’s staff were talented individuals influencing 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.

Quick Timeline

  • CollegeHumor was founded in 1999 by Josh Abramson and Ricky Van Veen as an entertainment website targeting college-age students with humorous viral videos and daily content.
  • The website gained significant popularity, attracting over 100 million monthly page views at its peak, and its writers, comics, and actors achieved celebrity status and influenced mainstream TV shows.
  • CollegeHumor’s partnership with Facebook led to inflated viewership numbers and a shift to posting native videos on Facebook’s platform, which resulted in a decline in website traffic and ad revenue.
  • Employee retention became a challenge as talented staff left the company to pursue opportunities at other major companies.
  • In early 2020, CollegeHumor was sold to its Chief Creative Officer, Sam Reich, who shut down the website, leading to over 100 staff losing their jobs.
  • CollegeHumor continues to operate on a smaller scale, with a focus on comedic news videos uploaded directly to YouTube from its Los Angeles headquarters.

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