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Jermaine Affonso

For leveling the cannons at click bait.

Jermaine Affonso
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Last summer, parody news site The Onion pulled the wrappings off an all-new parody spin-off site called ClickHole. Originally, the goal was to lampoon the BuzzFeeds and Upworthys of our Facebook-driven media universe. But then something really funny happened: ClickHole became a can’t-miss read in its own right. Although The Onion doesn’t share page-view stats, ClickHole’s influence is growing, an impression solidified when BuzzFeed hired away one of its writers in December. Leading the new site is editor and Onion veteran Jermaine Affonso, who picked out three of his favorite ClickHole headlines and explained what made them click-bait hits.

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“It takes a memory that people are super-nostalgic for and makes it really upsetting and disturbing.” Between the photo job, the U-turn in the headline, and the story itself, the post is also a great example of the teamwork behind ClickHole’s best efforts.

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“We rarely mention other sites by name on ClickHole, even though it’s an Internet parody site,” says Affonso. “But we made an exception for Vice. Let’s be honest, those guys really have it coming.”

The Mysterious Shadows of Skullshadow Island
The premise of this interactive post is simple: a Choose Your Own Adventure author is bored out of his mind. The real writer was given the freedom to let his imagination run wild. “Like, what if we had it branch off into total crazytown and had a section where people were doing BMX bike tricks?” explains Affonso. “So much of our website is based around aping and mocking [other] content,” he says. “It was cool to actually innovate a new content type and have it fit seamlessly into our voice and style.”


Bonus Round

Where or how do you seek out creative inspiration?

I find that deadlines are pretty much the best way to guarantee I’ll ever actually sit down and come up with any ideas. Beyond that, it helps to have a talented team of writers that I can slave-drive into coming up with ideas that I can shamelessly take credit for.

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

At this point, there’s basically no gap between me opening my eyes in the morning and me staring into my iPhone screen.

What is one thing about your job that you think would surprise people?

I think people are sometimes surprised how much of a well-oiled machine my workplace is. People hear you’re working for The Onion and ClickHole and assume a lot of lax, fun goofing off (and there’s plenty of that), but the place runs because of tight deadlines and a very rigid editorial process.

What’s your favorite Twitter or Instagram account and why?

At this point, I don’t use social media for any individual accounts but instead as a way to see what people are talking about and what’s generally in the zeitgeist.

Whenever a news story breaks you can see pretty quickly people across social media sites tend to start forming one single opinion on something and start to coalesce around one or two general comedic takes. When we’re looking at our jokes as a room, it’s good to know what angles have already been played out, so we can avoid them at all costs and keep our stuff feeling original.

How do you keep track of everything you have to do?

Honestly, we have such a good organizing system at ClickHole and The Onion that I never have to remember how to do anything. Our coordinators are magical wizards or something. Every morning I look at a convenient Google doc that lists the things that are waiting for me to edit, which is helpful because I’m not very organized and have never kept any sort of to-do list.

Who outside of your field inspires you the most and why?

Okay, so out of everyone in the world–authors, humanitarians, entrepreneurs, innovators, Elon Musk, scientists curing AIDS right this second–I’m going to say Kanye West. I know, I hate me too.

About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more.

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