E.W. Scripps acquires satirical site Cracked to bolster youth appeal

(Reuters) - E.W. Scripps SSP.N has acquired Cracked for $39 million, marking the latest example of a traditional media company buying a satirical digital group to appeal to younger viewers.

The acquisition marks the latest effort by Cincinnati-based Scripps, which has 33 local television and 34 radio stations across the country, to ramp up its digital offering to appeal to millennials. In 2013, Scripps bought Newsy, a digital video news service. Last year, Scripps bought Midroll Media, a provider of podcasts.

“There is a ton of evidence that humor is the lens through which millennials see the world,” said Adam Symson, chief digital officer at Scripps, citing shows like “The Daily Show” and John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.”

“This is the way that a big chunk of millenials watch news,” Symson said.

Through the acquisition of Cracked, and its site, Scripps hopes to bolster its appeal to the millennial (18- to 35-year-old) audience, he said.

Scripps is the latest traditional media company to buy a satirical site to reach younger viewers. In January, Univision Communications Inc [UVN.UL] bought a stake in The Onion.

While many media companies are turning to short-form video to appeal to younger viewers, adding humor to the mix is a way to stand out and get buzz on social media, said Paul Verna, an analyst at eMarketer.

Seventeen percent of viewers over the age of 14 get their news from social media, up from 4 percent in 2012, according to Deloitte. Meanwhile, only 7 percent get news from digital newspapers, down from 9 percent in 2012.

“It’s not just about getting into digital,” Verna said. “It is about staying in the digital domain by having a social following.”

Reporting By Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Tom Brown