While you were busy stapling TPS reports on the correct side, we got to interview the editor-in-chief of Cracked.com, Jack O’Brien, on the popular site’s “Top 8 Everything of 2011” list. For work!
Doing what we do here at Inquisitr, we see a lot of generally hilarious jackassery on the internet- and nothing is as consistently hilarious, spot-on, or TV Tropes-like in its addictiveness as Cracked. (Somehow, I have even managed to forgive them for their totally wrongful inclusion of Jack White on their “30 More Men Who Look Like Old Lesbians” List. So uncool.) The diverse mix of topics the site covers with ease and cohesion is surprising, but also lends itself to a large meta end-of-year retrospective like Cracked’s “Top 8 Everything of 2011.” The list covers film, gaming, television, persons, internet clips, words, music and images, with some notably funny standouts.
When I sat down with Jack- I assume he was sitting, since it was a phone interview- we talked a bit about Cracked’s growth and readership, the mix of content, and the impetus behind the selections made for the Top 8 list. The editor-in-chief has been helming the well-traveled web property since its inception in 2006, which coincided with the slightly more tepid print relaunch of the Cracked brand. (O’Brien says: “I hear print is on the decline… something about the internet?”) The company was acquired by content giant Demand Media back in 2008 which, he says, has also been good for traffic.
First off, I asked about the top posts for 2011, but those won’t be revealed until later in the year in another meta post. Then we moved on to social media, and- as you’ve probably observed- the seeming viral nature of nearly every Cracked post. O’Brien said that social media is a boon, but that strong content is really the driver:
“Facebook has really just been an extension of what we’ve seen work everywhere on the internet… When Digg was big, there was a certain viewpoint [that was dominant among the user base.] …Good content does good on social media.”
As anyone who creates content for the web might wonder, my next question was regarding how Cracked turns out such consistently funny content. O’Brien credits a robust in-house workshop as well as a vast pool of content-related ideas resulting in the site’s continual hilarity. He explains:
“We just have a really talented team- the full-time editors that we have on staff and then some freelance editors… we spend 24 to 48 hours each week in our online writers’ workshop where anyone can come in and pitch an idea… Over the course of the month we have about 1000 people pitching us ideas.”
Then we spoke a bit about types of content, and I asked if any particular areas- such as video- were catching on for the site. O’Brien says:
“Video’s been a big area of growth… Michael Swaim is our head of video… as he spends more time creating video for us and thinking about video as we have more and more people to help him do that, it’s been growing a lot. It’s a natural extension… we just look for projects that are a natural progression.”
Video was one of the eight cultural categories in the Top 8, and we wondered if the massive list was a yearly thing. It turns out that 2011 is the second year such a list was featured on Cracked:
“We did it as a decade ender, just summing up the “aughts,” I believe we called it, just summing up 2000-2009, and that was a lot of fun. So our team is grown, we had eight categories back then, we have eight editors now… each of us wanted to talk about the year that was and we really enjoyed that model and it really allowed you to pull out what you found interesting about the year in culture.”
Another category was for the top word of 2011, one of which was “occupy”- which led us to asked if Cracked readers seem to have any particular political slant. O’Brien explains:
“I think they’re as mixed as our writing staff which is pretty all over the spectrum… we have a lot more international readers and international writers than you would expect and that’s one of the things we have to watch out for… being too American-centric.”
Another spot-on selection was in the “song” category, where basically anything by Adele was selected for a top spot on the Top 8. We thought that Dan O’Brien’s description of the mood invoked by an Adele-listening selection was incredibly apt, and Jack agreed:
“[Dan] totally nailed it… and I didn’t have to feel so bad about staring out the window on rainy days and quietly weeping.”
Lastly, we discussed the “movies” category, and O’Brien’s selection of sequels in general as a notable moment for film in 2011. Sequels have historically been great moments of suck by and large when tacked on to great films, and he explains:
“Heading into this year I had always thought of sequels as inherently terrible… that’s just always been the way it was. This year, just randomly, people started making sequels as good as they possibly could… It really seemed like sequels just really started trying… Fast Five, which was my pick, which was my pick for movie of the year was the best Fast and the Furious… there seemed to be this switch that flipped that talented people seemed to realize we’ve got to make good sequels because that’s all there is.”
You can read Cracked’s exhaustive catalog of pop culture in 2011 over on their site, organized by category and writer. What do you think the top pop culture moments in 2011 were? Do you agree with Cracked’s assessments?