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The Onion: Yeah, we’re shutting down California papers, but not yours

The humor conglomerate confirms it’s shutting down Los Angeles and San Francisco papers, but cites Minneapolis as a growing market where it will stay.
By David Brauer

Trying to fulfill Monday’s promise to get more details on how the Onion’s Twin Cities edition is faring, and whether they’ll keep printing here, I received a memo from Onion World Headquarters.

It’s good news, for now at least.  The humor conglomerate confirms published reports it’s shutting down L.A. and San Francisco editions, but has “no plans at this time to cease publication in any of our other markets,” writes CEO Steve Hannah.

The memo lists Minneapolis among markets “growing nicely and in some cases dramatically,” but doesn’t specifically say whether the 50,000-circulation local rag makes money. I’m following up with the Onion folks on that.

(Note for national readers: unmentioned in the “growing nicely” category: Chicago, New York, D.C. and Austin.)

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Here’s the memo:

As most of you have heard through the very twisted grapevine by now, we have decided to shut down our print operations in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Both staffs were informed in person yesterday that their last editions would be published this week. It is an unpleasant task to discontinue print in those two cities — and to lay off the good people who worked hard to make them profitable — but I believe it is the wise business decision to make.

At the quarterly Board meeting in Chicago two weeks ago, we took a hard look at the company’s business operations in this very tough economic environment. Overall, we are weathering the storm, and, as you know, we have avoided taking many of the draconian measures employed by other media companies. Unfortunately, despite healthy readership in both Los Angeles and San Francisco (readership has actually risen despite our reduction in copies in recent months) the advertising in both cities has been abysmal.

This stands in stark contrast to other parts of our business — both the majority of our print markets (Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis, Denver, Boulder, for example) as well as our rapidly growing digital enterprises (,, the Onion News Network and — which are growing nicely and in some cases dramatically. So, at the end of the day, you have to make a decision whether to pump money into parts of the company that are straining us financially (LA and SF print) or reroute that capital into the areas of the company that are growing in size and value.

We chose the latter.

We love our print publications. They are the foundation of the Onion and, in the majority of our markets, they make us money. We have no plans at this time to cease publication in any of our other markets.