After this week, The Onion will no longer be printed in Madison, where it was founded in 1988, and that's no joke. Capital Newspapers, which publishes the satirical newspaper locally, decided not to renew its contract with The Onion, so the July 25 issue will be the last.
"We're bummed out, obviously," says Matt Gerding, co-owner of the Majestic Theatre, which advertised in the newspaper. "The Onion is a Madison tradition."
The Barrymore Theatre and the High Noon Saloon were other faithful local advertisers in The Onion. But Bob Marshall, a spokesman at The Onion's corporate headquarters in Chicago, said in an email that there is no longer enough advertising money to keep printing the newspaper in Madison.
"I'd be lying if I said we weren't beginning to question the effectiveness of the ads," Gerding says. "I do think The Onion had lost a little bit of the relevancy that it once had."
The decline of The Onion in Madison has been gradual. Last June, the local version of The Onion’s A.V. Club stopped publishing content online.
Ben Munson, the former Madison A.V. Club city editor (and a current Isthmus contributor), says that the local events calendar in the print version of The Onion remained until October of last year, but that the quality had dropped considerably.
The loss of the local Onion in print is part of the growing shift to digital and online media. Pew Research Center data from 2013 shows U.S. print revenues have dropped 45% since 2006, while digital revenues have increased by about 15%.
The Onion will continue to publish the paper in other cities, and Madison fans can still read the sardonic articles online.
"I probably wont look at it online, that's the thing," says Chris Kleppe, a UW staff member who routinely picks up a copy of The Onion at Memorial Union. "I don't read a lot of stuff online, I guess, especially if I'm used to reading it in print."
Dylan Kissinger, a senior at UW-Madison this fall, says he regularly reads The Onion in print but will continue to read it online.
"It's pretty ridiculous that they can't find enough funding to publish it in the city where it was created," Kissinger says. "I just know a lot of people are going to miss it."