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Online Magazine Panel Sets New Standards For Conference Entertainment

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Let’s be serious for a minute. Nah, on second thought, let’s not. It’s much more fun when panels at stuff like this aren’t so damn serious. Example: “The Future of the Online Magazine” at SXSW. Even though only one of the panelists was from College Humor, that phrase easily describes the content of the hour-long episode. And it was pretty awesome.

Moderated by Rufus Griscom of Nerve Media, it was quite the eclectic crew, none of which really describe themselves as online magazines: Sean Mills of The Onion, Ricky Van Veen of College Humor, Joan Walsh, Editor of Salon.com and mediabistro.com‘s own CEO & Founder Laurel Touby. Griscom immediately set up a supposed rivalry between College Humor and The Onion, while Touby asserted herself as Griscom’s moderator, calling out additional questions for the panel and the audience. Walsh and Touby insisted on nailing Nerve for its sexy content and The Onion/College Humor contingency for their “dick humor.” And so the laughs began.


At 4 minutes in:
The first penis joke occurs when Touby asks Van Veen about the “size of his staff.”

At 6 minutes in:
Two penis jokes; one Onion/College Humor crack. Walsh points out that they can’t run celebs all the time, and they have to focus on coverage of stuff like 9/11. Mills says, “Um, we were the first people to make fun of 9/11. What did you do?”

22 minutes in:
Three penis jokes; Onion/College Humor disses have risen to five: “Why don’t you go first?” says Van Veen. “Well, I was first,” says Mills, referring to The Onion being practically ancient. Oooooooh.

28 minutes in:
Walsh calls it the “internet holocaust.” Mills says he finds that incredibly offensive, “It was the internet 9/11.”

32 minutes in:
Four penis jokes; eight Onion/College Humor exchanges. When asked if any of the companies have in-house design teams, Van Veen claims that he knows for a fact that The Onion refuses to hire any women designers. “Not as much women, but all minorities,” says Mills. “We tried, but honestly, they’re just lazy.”

48 minutes in:
Five penis jokes; one vagina joke; nine Onion/College Humor bashes. A guy takes the mic for the first audience question and claims he has an eight-part question that he’ll ask after a brief moment of silence. He asks one question about the Hush Puppies phenomenon that took place in the East Village, “Just because I wanted to know what everyone thought of that.” He then presents three sample Onion headlines, including “Area man plays XBox for only two hours.” Mills wonders if anyone sees Andy Kaufman in the room.

Although we have a hunch it was all staged for the sake of attention–the audience member seemed definitely too good to be true and it was; turns out it’s a College Humor guy–it doesn’t matter really. When it comes to online magazines, this panel proved it: They’re the best when they’re funny.

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