Cards Against Humanity, the card game company, purchased ClickHole.com from its owners at G/O Media on Monday for an undisclosed amount in an all-cash deal, BuzzFeed News has learned. ClickHole’s employees will become the majority owners of the site. Although terms were not disclosed, the Wall Street Journal reported in November that the sale price was likely to be less than $1 million. The Onion, which created ClickHole, will remain a part of G/O Media.
Max Temkin, the cofounder of Cards Against Humanity, told BuzzFeed News that the deal will allow ClickHole to bring on additional staff — it currently has only five full-time employees — and explore new revenue streams. He also said the site would operate independently, with financial support from Cards Against Humanity. ClickHole staffers will not be involved in writing any Cards Against Humanity content.
A spokesperson for G/O Media confirmed the deal to BuzzFeed News.
“We’re giving them funding, and if they ask us, we’ll be an advisor,” Temkin told BuzzFeed News, saying that the ClickHole team will operate independently, with financial support. “We just want to give them a chance to do their thing. They’re really capable — really smart and innovative. And I don't know if they’ve had that opportunity before to try all these creative [ideas for the site].”
Steve Etheridge, editor-in-chief of ClickHole, told BuzzFeed News, “we're leaving a place with a very robust editorial infrastructure to essentially go build a new digital media company from scratch. Cards is giving us total freedom to do our thing, but that freedom comes with a lot of new responsibility, and we really just want to get it right. Our goal is to make ClickHole better than ever before.”
The Onion launched ClickHole in 2014 as a send-up of sites like Upworthy and BuzzFeed. It moved on to satirizing online political discourse with PatriotHole and ResistanceHole. Yet it has consistently transcended mere parody and created its own sublimely absurd universe. Quizzes like “Which One of My Garbage Sons Are You?” or its running series of fake banal quotes from celebrities earned it a loyal, independent following.
In its short existence, ClickHole has changed hands multiple times. Univision purchased its parent company, Onion Inc., in 2016. That same year, Univision also purchased what was left of Gawker Media. Univision later sold many of its assets, including ClickHole, as well as sites like Jezebel, Deadspin, and the Root to private equity firm Great Hill Partners as G/O Media. The transition has not been smooth. Two of the most senior staffers at ClickHole were laid off by new management in April 2019. G/O Media writers have routinely criticized and mocked the company’s CEO, Jim Spanfeller. Politics site Splinter was shuttered, and after a feud with management over editorial independence, the entire staff of Deadspin quit.
“We will be sad to leave all our friends at The Onion except for this one guy Nick, who sucks,” Etheridge told BuzzFeed News. “The good news is that security at The Onion office is very poor, so we can break in and visit our friends any time we want."
“Our goal is to take some of the pressure off of them so they can shake some of these managerial shakes ups they’ve had and just focus on making amazing comedy,” Temkin told BuzzFeed News.
Both Cards Against Humanity and ClickHole are based in Chicago, and according to Temkin, their staffs have known one another from the local comedy scene for years, which led to discussions of the sale in 2019.
Cards Against Humanity was created by Temkin and his high school friends in 2012 and was an early Kickstarter hit. Its popularity spread by word of mouth and on the internet. It has also come in for a lot of criticism that its cards contain racist or anti-trans jokes. A card for “passable transvestites” was removed from the game, and Target stopped selling a Jewish-themed expansion pack after complaints that it was anti-Semitic. Temkin was accused of sexual assault in 2014, an allegation he denied. The company also waded into controversy in 2017 when it purchased a plot of land along the US–Mexico border in an effort to set up a legal fight over Trump's border wall.
This won’t be the first venture outside of card games for Cards Against Humanity. This year, it plans to open a board game–themed bar and restaurant in Chicago.
As for the sale price, Etheridge said, “ClickHole was incredibly expensive because we are the only website in the world that has treasure. Our Treasure consists of gold, rubies, doubloons, diamonds, sapphires, and many other beautiful gems and precious metals. Nobody is allowed to touch our Treasure, but people are allowed to look at our Treasure. If you try to steal our Treasure, we will put a curse on you. Thank you for your cooperation. Long live ClickHole.”