Superdeluxe, Turner Broadcasting's ha-ha video site, has finally shut down. Is anyone going to miss it — or the rest of the Web's other humor-clips startups?
Unlikely, save for one determined Atlanta fan with a taste for hip-hop cartoons. Superdeluxe's staff was laid off in May, but it took the Time Warner subsidiary seven months to move a small portion of its video library over to AdultSwim.com and shut the site down.
Turner isn't the only one finding it hard to get a laugh. Funny Or Die, which has never matched the popularity of "The Landlord," the bossy-baby clip from Will Ferrell, has morphed into a collection of cooking videos and videogame walkthroughs. Heavy.com is in management disarray, and is trying to make money on its advertising network rather than funny videos. eBaum's World, bought by the older brother of Google founder Larry Page, is entwined in a baroque financial disaster. And JibJab, famed for its political-satire musical numbers, seems to make more of its money through serving as an advertising agency for the likes of OfficeMax and Honda.
Why the serial failures? One could point to the struggling market for online advertising, or sponsors' unease with the racier fare preferred by the young male demographic they're hoping to reach.
But I think it has more to do with the nature of humor. Telling someone that they're about to hear a really funny joke just raises expectations. A website dedicated to laffs will find its viewers inevitably drifting away as the gags go flat. Sad as it is to say, people go to YouTube prepared to be bored — and then they're delighted to find something mildly amusing, becauses it's so unexpected. There's no business to be built around such idle surfing — but it's the very nature of how people get their laughs.