Censored Comedian Owen Benjamin speaks out on the online persecution he has experienced as a result of his political beliefs.
By Sarah Aswell | SplitSider
Last month, in its second round of layoffs in as many years, comedy hub Funny or Die reportedly eliminated its entire editorial team following a trend of comedy websites scaling back, shutting down, or restructuring their business model away from original online content.
Hours after CEO Mike Farah delivered the news via an internal memo, Matt Klinman took to Twitter, writing, “Mark Zuckerberg just walked into Funny or Die and laid off all my friends.” It was a strong sentiment for the longtime comedy creator, who started out at UCB and The Onion before launching Pitch, the Funny or Die-incubated joke-writing app, in 2017.
But Klinman explained in a thread: “There is simply no money in making comedy online anymore. Facebook has completely destroyed independent digital comedy and we need to fucking talk about it.”
We’re not sure about you, but that certainly piqued our interest. We sat down with Klinman to fucking talk about it (and just a note–these opinions are his, and he’s speaking for himself and not on behalf of Funny or Die).
So: What happened at Funny or Die?
Funny or Die just went through a period of changing their business model. Now it’s going to focus on long-form content like television and branded content and less on original content made for the internet. They are being very supportive of the people who they had to lay off as far as continuing projects that they already had, but the way they ran things just no longer made any sense.
Let’s talk about the Twitter thread you wrote on the day of the layoffs.
How I felt on the day of was that a ton of my friends — people who I respect a lot and who are great comedy writers — were just laid off, and at this point it was increasingly clear to me that this is not a management problem or a problem with the content that they are making. The problem was that the whole business model made no sense, as far as us just putting the stuff up on the internet and us being able to make a living on it. I was just angry and frustrated and sad that you can’t make cool shit for the internet anymore and make a living.
The whole story is basically that Facebook gets so much traffic that they started convincing publishers to post things on Facebook. For a long time, that was fine. People posted things on Facebook, then you would click those links and go to their websites. But then, gradually, Facebook started exerting more and more control of what was being seen, to the point that they, not our website, essentially became the main publishers of everyone’s content. Today, there’s no reason to go to a comedy website that has a video if that video is just right on Facebook. And that would be fine if Facebook compensated those companies for the ad revenue that was generated from those videos, but because Facebook does not pay publishers, there quickly became no money in making high-quality content for the internet.
In these situations recently, like with Cracked, people get mad at the management and at the companies. I’m a labor dude, I’m a proud member of the WGAE, and I’m more than happy to get mad at management about something, but it’s increasingly clear that that’s not the problem. The problem is that Facebook is our editor and our boss. They decide what is successful and what isn’t successful via seemingly meaningless metrics. They hide behind algorithms that they change constantly. And it seems to me that they are not favoring things that are high-quality — they are favoring things that are clickbait, things that are optimized for Facebook, low-quality things that appeal to the lowest common denominator and, honestly, just things at random.
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