At first the story seems too good to be true; create a website oddly reminiscent of The Onion, then sell it to them. But for two clever brothers that’s exactly what happened.
Four months ago, Leo and John Resig created an entertainment photo blog called The Chive. From header to footer, it felt like you’d arrived at The Onion. At a glance it was brand theft but Leo and John had more far-reaching motives, “Imitation is the best form of flattery. Plus we knew The Onion could take a joke” said Leo, “Actually, we wanted to get their attention. It was our plan all along. We hoped the Onion would see the big potential in our little site and help us out.” Well, not exactly.
The Onion saw The Chive and it wasn’t love at first sight. Julie Smith, the GM for the Onion contacted brothers and kindly asked them to deconstruct their themes to look less like The Onion. The brothers once again turned to irony for aid, “We counter-offered. We offered to buy The Onion for $2.50 and a pack of Newport Menthols,” said John grinning, “Julie took it well. She politely declined.”
The Chive then shed its Onion skin and rebranded itself entirely. Today, nothing but the Chive’s vegetable name is akin to The Onion.
But then something happened. The Chive started to blossom. Every day, thousands of new visitors funneled into The Chive. It seems the brothers’ ability to aggregate all the current, funny photos on the net was bringing in a massive audience, nearly 50,000 unique visitors a day after only 4 months.
“When half our staff was surfing The Chive, we knew there was something there,” says President and CEO of The Onion, Steve Hannah” adding, “Of course we knew that The Chive would want more than a couple dollars and menthol cigarettes. Everybody knows menthols are only good during the winter and we’d ticked over to spring. We offered a bit more.”
A bit more to say the very least. The Onion purchased its bastard vegetable cousin for 3.9 million dollars on Monday. The brothers Resig will still operate the blog, they’ll just do it from different parts of the globe. Says John, “I always wanted to see Sri Lanka before the civil war, so I’m building a time machine.”