CollegeHumor

November 29, 2010 § 1 Comment

An interesting case study (could you call it that?) on how a brand and product ages with the passage of time: www.collegehumor.com . Feels like I’ve been a fan for a thousand years—I think my first memory of the site was this video.  Though it’s ironic, and a sign of both my and the site’s age, that I can’t manage to find the on-site version.

CollegeHumor has evolved with time into a much different monster today than it was back then. And with good reason. Streaming video wasn’t really universal—or even all that realistic—back when the website launched in 1999. You couldn’t create content that parodied Facebook before Facebook existed. But that’s not the interesting stuff.

What’s interesting to me is that CollegeHumor is very slowly and sneakily becoming less and less of a college-based humor website. For now, much of the content still applies to collegiates.  But if you look closely, you’d notice that much of site’s original content—video series such as “Hardly Working,” “Full Benefits,” “Phantom of the Office,” and even their (arguably) most popular series, “Jake and Amir”—are all office-based comedies.

CollegeHumor is (or at least, soon will be) faced with a difficult dilemma: the staff is getting old; as good as they’ve been at putting it off, Father Time always manages to make his rounds. Already, you don’t really see the once readily-available vulgar language, drug abuse, or nudity on the site anymore—and it’d be impossible to argue that these aren’t significant facets of collegiate life. In fact, according to their Media Kit, you’re not even allowed to advertise on any pages that feature content of that nature.

What could you do? As CollegeHumor, you couldn’t create classroom-based sketch comedies with a staff that’s probably largely 5+ years removed from being in college, or else you’d fast run into an authenticity problem. You couldn’t cycle your personnel as they age,  or else you’re faced with a staffing nightmare—and plus, you lose out on all the branding and loyalty developed by your current team. Very risky.

For now, the characters, sketches, and content created are all still relatable to anyone in the pre-, current-, and post-collegiate demographics.  But how long until CollegeHumor.com becomes OfficeHumor.com—either in effect, or in execution?

I think CollegeHumor has taken the right path. Keeping old customers is far easier than capturing and nurturing new ones; that’s not rocket science. And for now, that means that the website and content have to age accordingly. I’ll be interested to see if and when the website reaches a true breaking point where it’s largely irrelevant for the current crop of collegiates.  The creation of other assets that aren’t tied to a stagnant age demographic, such as sister sites Dorkly.com, TodaysBigThing.com, and BustedTees.com, was an absolute must—and I think they’ve managed to successfully leverage the popularity of CollegeHumor into the development of the rest of the CH Media product portfolio.

Eleven may face a similar predicament in the near future / today / last year. Does the magazine grow up with its editors? Stay tuned.

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