I'm Richard, the managing Editor of NewsThump.com. I started NewsThump as nothing more than a bit of fun and a way to learn how websites work, but in the last two years it has grown to a Top 10k Alexa-ranked site delivering content to over 2 million visitors a month, who read stories from over a dozen freelancing comedy writers responsible for creating what appears on our pages.

Feel free to ask me anything about building and running a popular website from nothing, what it's like to trend on social media, who complains the most when you mock them, why we're not funny, or anything else you might want to know about what we do, or how we do it.

I'm not pitching anything, and don't have anything to 'sell', so just ask away. I'll be here from 4pm BST for as long as you want me...

Proof: https://twitter.com/newsthump/status/791274613816827904 https://www.facebook.com/NewsThump/posts/1277710948926000

EDIT: I think that's probably it, I think I've answered everyone, but I'll check in later in case I've accidentally missed someone...

Comments: 109 • Responses: 45  • Date: 

northlondon5019 karma

  1. What's your favourite newspaper?

  2. Who did you vote for in the last general election?

  3. The other day I was in a public toilet and the tip of my penis briefly brushed against the inside of the rim as I sat down to take a shit. Does this make me gay?

  4. What's your favourite colour?

NewsThump18 karma

  1. I don't have one, and haven't read 'paper' newspapers for a long while. I used to enjoy reading the Sunday Times and The Observer, but haven't bought one in a couple of years I'd imagine. I get all my news online now, from the BBC, Telegraph, Guardian, and sometimes (if we're mocking something they've written), the Mail and Express.

  2. I live in an EXTREMELY safe Tory seat (63% of the vote), so although it didn't count for much, I voted Labour. My personal politics are probably slightly left of centre, more akin to the pre-2010 Lib Dems than the modern Labour party, however.

  3. No, but fellating the guy in the cubicle next to you? That might be a clue.

  4. Blue. Though if my gf is reading this, I think I have to say something like "Tranquility Steel".

FreddoFrog397 karma

What does Simon Williams think about you doing an AMA?

NewsThump27 karma

Fuck Simon Williams. If I want his opinion, I'll give him one.

GVG20151 karma

Who is Simon Williams?

shamelessnameless2 karma

I also want to know this

NewsThump1 karma

I answered this on another thread, so just going to copy that answer here:

He was the first person ever to write an email to us complaining about one of our stories. He claimed we shouldn't be mocking the thing we were mocking, and insisted this was the case because it was so important to him personally. Sod that. It was a long while ago now, so I've no idea if he still reads the site...

ngony6 karma

How often do people feedback with a variation of "what about the Muslims???////question mark question mark"

NewsThump7 karma

I want to say daily, but it's probably only on the days when we mock someone on the far-right, or Catholics, or UKIP, or Brexit, or people slagging off immigrants. So yeah, probably every day. To be honest, we're grateful to Stewart Lee for giving us something to respond with, that means we don't have to articulate our position more fully.

dippedintea5 karma

I know NT satirise all parties and don't align to a specific bias but in these post-Brexit times are you receiving more flack from keyboard warriors as of late?

Also, is it becoming harder or easier now to write about our self-satirising Government?

NewsThump6 karma

I wouldn't say we get 'more' flack, no - but it's certainly more vociferous than before. We live in a post-Brexit world, and like it or not, that has given a bit more confidence to some of the less desirable elements of our society, and they are certainly more prevalent in our comment threads. We don't pay much attention to it really, though we do jump in every now and again when someone makes it so hard NOT to mock them.

As for the government, well, modern politics is a bit of a farce, yes. There is certainly more material to be had, but the truth is the leading characters in our government haven't really defined themselves yet. Compare Hammond to Osborne, May to Cameron, or Amber Rudd to Theresa May - yes, they're doing things we can mock, but we're still some way from having the sort of material we were given by the last lot.

91j4 karma

Which of your headlines is your favourite?

NewsThump14 karma

By 'your' I'm going to assume you mean the site's headlines, rather than mine personally? I'm particularly fond of this one from the day Wonga announced a massive financial loss last year:

Wonga declares £37.3m loss after accidentally borrowing a fiver from itself

Or this one, from the day a UKIP councillor blamed the rain on homosexuality:

UKIP pledges to send homosexual couples to drought affected areas

There are plenty of others, and it's not always the ones that do particularly well with the public. I'd be more interested to know what your favourite is...

justmelike3 karma

How many writers do you have, and do you accept and publish anything you receive (providing it's hilarious of course)?

NewsThump4 karma

Sorry, I replied to this earlier, and somehow it's disappeared - probably me being an idiot, my apologies.

We have about a dozen regular writers, and by regular I mean writers who get stuff on the site most weeks. There are 4 or 5, including myself who write something most days.

We do have a submissions page (here: http://newsthump.com/writing-for-newsthump/) and we do feature submissions from people we've never used before, but it probably accounts for less than 5% of the content. To set your expectations, I would say we use probably one in every twenty-five submissions we get via that page.

That said, every writer who is now a regular, started out by submitting something via that page... if it's good, we'll publish it.

dinnyhoon3 karma

Do you see many instances on social media of people misinterpreting your articles as truth and sharing/angrily condemning them accordingly? Any particular tales that stand out?

NewsThump2 karma

It does happen, but I think that's a fact of life of any satire site. It's certainly not something we set out to do. We want people to be laughing 'with' us, not angrily sharing our content as if it was real. I think it's fair to say that about half of all the complaints we get come from people who have mistaken our articles for real news stories.

That said, we did like it when the BNP thought our 'hug a jihadi' article was real. It was a parody of Cameron's famous 'hug a hoodie' line. The huffington Post covered it here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2015/11/21/british-national-party-_n_8616160.html

CarcosaStars3 karma

Do you find it difficult in refraining from commenting on the current US Presidential Election, given that it is a gold-mine for satire?

NewsThump9 karma

Not at all - we regularly publish articles about the US election, though as you can imagine, Trump is the target in 90% of those articles. He just makes it so easy.

I wrote earlier about how our current crop of leaders haven't yet developed strong enough personas to be good comedy targets. Trump is the opposite. He was born a joke writer's dream.

I'm torn between hoping he'll win for comedic reasons, and worrying there'll be no-one left to read our President Trump jokes in the post-apocalyptic dystopia he'll inevitably bring about.

FootballCTE2 karma

How much sex are you having?

NewsThump4 karma

More than none, less than too much. Unless this is our gf's throwaway, in which case: the perfect amount, sweetheart.

freeflow132 karma

What is the most memorable response/complaint you have received?

Have you ever looked back and regretted publishing a particular article or thought "maybe we went too far with that one"?

NewsThump2 karma

The best complaints are the ones that say they hope we get cancer and die, definitely. Like this one: https://business.facebook.com/NewsThump/photos/a.167782276585545.35542.157809760916130/1080795431950887/?type=3&permPage=1

Responded earlier about the only time we removed a post after publishing it, only happened once... (not sure how to link to a previous answer, sorry!)

dippedintea2 karma

No doubt it's gotta be an incredibly enjoyable and fulfilling job but financially is the independent online satire game rewarding or is it very much a labour of love?

NewsThump2 karma

I took a pay cut to do this full-time, and no-one is getting rich writing satire on the Internet (I don't think - well, we aren't). But I do make a living out of it, and it's more fun than my last job (selling software), so I can't complain.

I would also add that there are decent financial rewards if your material is good. We've had writers start with us and go on to get reasonably well-paid gigs elsewhere as a result of their NewsThump writing, creating things for TV and radio.

Also, because of how we pay our writers, sometimes they earn pretty decent amounts for their stories. We've had three articles this year that have earned their respective authors over £1,000. That's for ONE silly satire story on the Internet. Obviously these are the exception, but it does happen when stories go viral.

flexofreek2 karma

What is the UK's most popular Onion ripoff?

Jamesj104 karma

The only other one I know of is The Daily Mash

NewsThump1 karma

Correct - we're basing that purely on Facebook fans. I've no idea how popular they are in terms of actual readers. I think the Mash is the most popular, but I believe Newsbiscuit was the first in the Uk (happy to be corrected on that)

jimthree602 karma

Has there ever been a "life imitating art" moment with any of your articles? Or what's the closest to actual truth you've hit?

NewsThump1 karma

Hmmm. Good question, I'm sure it has over the years, but I can't think of a good example right now, sorry! If it did, I'd think we're probably not trying hard enough!

ngony2 karma

Do the comedy writers write the headlines too? It often seems like the headline is the funniest bit, I confess I read every headline on facebook and often laugh but rarely click through. Do you think there are many people like me?

NewsThump2 karma

Yes, the headline is almost always written by the author of the article.

We know there are a lot of people like you, but don't worry - if you enjoy the headline, that's enough for me. The headline is the most important part of any story, it's the bit you see on social media, or in your email, or somewhere online - so if that's no good, you won't read the rest of it.

Sometimes a story is one joke explored in a few different ways, sketch-style. Other times it will go in a completely different direction, but in all cases, we try and put the funniest bit in the headline.

jong1232 karma

Do you accept contributions from anyone who submits them to you or is it only a select group of writers?

NewsThump2 karma

We have an open-door policy on submissions, and you can find out more here: http://newsthump.com/writing-for-newsthump/

RafflesEsq2 karma

When are you getting into an Anchorman-like turf war with The Daily Mash?

NewsThump3 karma

I am sharpening my trident as we speak!

No, seriously, I have nothing but respect for the Daily Mash, I think they're great and often find myself thinking "I wish I'd thought of that".

Honestly, the more popular topical satire becomes in the UK, the happier I'll be. What's good for one of us, is good for the whole industry. I certainly don't have a 'them and us' attitude to it.

Weasle62 karma

While it is clear there is some semblance of political bias in the article's, I am generally impressed by the taking the piss to both sides of the fence.

How hard is it to find that balance on article publishing?

(I'm anti-Tory Remain, guess my favourite articles!)

NewsThump8 karma

I think one of the things that annoys me more than anything is the demand for 'political balance' on our site. People seem to equate that to "Well, you did a story about the Tories, so now do one about Labour", or "You mocked Brexit this morning, you should mock Remainers this afternoon". That's not balance. Yes, we are willing to mock both sides of most arguments, but the simple fact is that satire works best when you punch upwards. There is little point mocking the party that isn't in power. We do it, from time to time, when deserved, but there's little mileage on "Haha, look at this policy this party will never get a chance to implement". Conversely, one party is in power, one side won the referendum, so they are obviously going to get more jokes made about them.

Brexit is a good example. We live in a post-Brexit reality. Everything around us, today, is in a universe in which we voted to leave. Therefore jokes will obviously lend themselves to situations in which Brexit is happened. Had we voted to remain, there would be more jokes about "why isn't everything great yet?" directed at the EU. But we didn't, so there isn't.

monsieurwpayne2 karma

Who is or was Simon Williams? Was he a real person you knew? Is he someone you still know? Was he your childhood friend? Was he your imaginary childhood friend? And is it true he plays number 9 for England like your recent article implied? I love your site, but the mystery surrounding Mister Williams is making it difficult to completely enjoy your satire. We need closure!

NewsThump5 karma

He was the first person ever to write an email to us complaining about one of our stories. He claimed we shouldn't be mocking the thing we were mocking, and insisted this was the case because it was so important to him personally.

Sod that.

It was a long while ago now, so I've no idea if he still reads the site...

Jamesj101 karma

Hello, Richard. I adore NewsThump. It is one of the funniest things on the internet and one of about 5 websites that I don't block adverts on. So, thanks.

My question is, do you think comedy (particularly satire and parody like NewsThump) can have any useful effect on politics and people's opinions? Or would you agree with what Jesse Armstrong said the other day, that "comedy is not good for anything, really. Apart from being one of the only things that makes life worth living".

(Link to that here: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/oct/18/is-satire-dead-politicians-held-in-contempt-armando-iannucci-few-laughs)

NewsThump2 karma

Thanks, I know ads are a pain, but they're the only way we can pay the writers, so I appreciate that.

Yes, I read that article, and Jesse has a point. However, I like to think that if you can make a few people look at the absurdity of a situation, in a slightly different way, then comedy can be useful. That said, we're in no way a political organisation, and certainly don't claim to influence anyone.

Generally speaking, I think if a political position can be mocked, and mocked well, then it probably isn't a very good position to take. And if comedy can help highlight that, then great. That goes for both ends of the political spectrum, btw.

Rrrrichie2 karma

I think The Daily Show had a huge effect here in the US - maybe didn't change opinions but definitely formed them among people already skeptical about Government and the right. Made it more easy to talk at work etc with people of the same mindset

NewsThump2 karma

It's a format many have tried to mimic in the UK, so far without success. Maybe because our public figures weren't as outrageous as those in the US, maybe because the UK public doesn't respond well to that style of show - who knows. I hope they keep trying.

PuntTheRunt0101 karma

Got any News?

NewsThump3 karma

Yes, there's plenty of it here: http://newsthump.com/

Killmewithahammer1 karma

got any jobs going? I'm funny, can do satire, a pissed off graduate left of centre but not so left ive disappeared up me own ring piece. would love to write copy or do SEO for you guys...

NewsThump1 karma

No jobs going at the moment, sorry (but if we carry on growing, who knows). However, you can find out about contributing to the site here: http://newsthump.com/writing-for-newsthump/

spinmynuts1 karma

Why have I never heard of your website until now?

NewsThump2 karma

We've been hiding from you, obviously.

ScottishRabbi1 karma

Do you accept submissions?

NewsThump2 karma

We do, and you can find out how to do so here: http://newsthump.com/writing-for-newsthump/

Gossack1 karma

Are you looking forward to the Nintendo Switch?

NewsThump1 karma

I haven't looked forward to a new Nintendo console since the SNES...

Gossack1 karma

That sucks. The SNES was a great console! It came out when I was 3 and I'm now 27. My favourite console's the GameCube. What's your favourite video game? Mine's The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I haven't looked forward to a Nintendo console since the Wii so 10 years.

NewsThump1 karma

GoldenEye is the best game ever, obviously.

esn1111 karma

One of your articles gets quoted in a serious news site in a different country as a serious reflection of the news in the UK: Success or failure?

NewsThump1 karma

Both, obviously it would be nice to be recognised full stop, but it's certainly not our intention to trick people into thinking our stories are true.

nwdle11 karma

Custard creams or Bourbons?

NewsThump2 karma

Neither, I'm a cookie man

Hamsternoir1 karma

How do you feel when real life throws up stuff even more bizarre than you could come up with or when real life mirrors an article?

NewsThump1 karma

We like to think there's an element of truth in most of our stories, so having real-life reflect what we've written is quite pleasing, but if it was literally the same, we'd probably think we're not trying hard enough!

As for the bizarre, well sometimes you can't satirise something, no matter how hard you try. There was a lot of that in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, but it's calming down a bit now...

feariseverywhere1 karma

What angle are you going to take on the absolutely necessary Baldrick-related story?

NewsThump1 karma

Difficult to do a joke about a joke, but there a couple of potential angles. What would Baldricks plan for Brexit actually be? Would it be any better, or worse? Maybe Theresa May will hire Blackadder as Brexit adviser?

Who knows what submissions we'll get overnight :-)

simonphillips911 karma

Are there any headlines that come to mind that were deemed too risky/insensitive to publish?

Massive fan by the way, keep up the great work!

NewsThump1 karma

Not if they're funny enough, no. If it's funny enough, and the target is legitimate, we'll publish it. Sometimes we'll reject ideas because we don't think the target is legitimate - not because it's risky or insensitive, just that maybe the subject of the satire is undeserving of it.

In all the time we've been doing this, we've only ever taken down one story we subsequently decided was too insensitive - I won't say which one, but it was a joke about an 'incident', and one of the people involved in that incident wrote in and explained their point of view, and we decided to remove it. But only once.

Goatsun1 karma

Hello. Big fan of your page since NewsArse days. Question- Is there a topic/group/individuals that you are afraid of satirising? Or have faced backlash from it?

NewsThump1 karma

Not 'afraid of', no. We often get told to "do the Muslims", but frankly you can only mock what you know, and this is a Christian country, and I was raised Catholic, so guess what...that's where our jokes come from.

In terms of backlash, UKIP supporters have never taken kindly to being mocked, and some Brexiters are getting up there too. But it's part and parcel of what we do. We all know if we mock something, someone somewhere will take offence - whether they will bother to complain on our page, or on email, or somewhere on Twitter, is anyone's guess.

TomJBeasley1 karma

Are you more interested in witty headlines or sharp gags in the copy? Do you find that people just won't click unless the headline is gold?

NewsThump2 karma

We live in a world where attention is at a premium, you have seconds to get someone interested, or they move on - so the headline is absolutely the most important part of any story. Everything flows from that.

If the sharpest gag in a story is in the copy, and not the headline, then I'm not doing my job correctly. However, sometimes you can build a more rewarding gag in the copy, which you can't do with one hundred characters.

But you're right, if the headline isn't good, people just don't click through to read the rest of it.

TomJBeasley1 karma

Lots of people have said that satire is "dead" as a result of Trump, Farage, Brexit, etc. Do you believe this is the case? Is it harder than before to find a comic take on public figures?

NewsThump6 karma

I don't believe it's dead, no. BUT, a staple of satire has always been exaggeration, taking someone's position and take it to the very extreme end of the spectrum - THAT has become harder. We used to do jokes about Nigel Farage blaming mundane things on immigrants, then he went and blamed them for traffic on the M4 and him being late for an interview. The same for Trump, there are very few words we could put in his mouth that don't have at least a remote possibility of becoming true. So rather than mock the individual (who may be on the verge of going beyond satire), you try to mock the position they're taking.

Cell_Division1 karma

Hi Richard! How do you come up with the spoof headlines and articles? Like... what's the process?

Do you just kinda sit around with friends/colleagues and take the piss out of everything until something comes up that can become a "headline"?

Also, are there days/periods when there's simply nothing to poke fun of, and you struggle to write stuff?

NewsThump3 karma

I think to describe it as a 'process' makes it sound like there's a formula for it, when there really isn't. If there was, we'd have perfected it by now, and we clearly haven't!

The simple fact is that it starts by reading the news, and seeing what strikes you as absurd or ridiculous, or even what makes you laugh, or makes you angry. The most successful stories all have an element of truth to it, so if you can turn a story around so it's basically a factual statement with the hidden truth of the matter, that's a bonus.

Slow news days happen all the time. Over the last couple of years we've started publishing more non-topical stuff to counter this, but it's still the case. We created two pilots for the BBC earlier this year, starting each day with a blank sheet of paper and needing to have a 15-minute show recorded and ready by 5pm - that's a day you do NOT want the news to be boring...

EDIT: Just want to add, that even on slow news days, you just need to write - start writing. You'll be amazed where your brain will take you when you're putting words on the page, but if you don't start, the page will always be blank.

shamelessnameless1 karma

How do you fund and make money off the site?

Love what you do btw

NewsThump2 karma

It's all funded by advertising, unfortunately. As a reader of things on the Internet, I'm not a big fan of ads on websites, but they are the only way most sites can afford to stay online and pay their writers. Unless you have a subscription model, obviously. I'd love to think people would pay a quid (or whatever) a month for an ad-free NewsThump, but I'm not sure that's the case when there is so much free content out there. I could be wrong?

lardboy1 karma

What is better - cake or pie?

NewsThump1 karma

Pie, always pie.

Alexanderthegrate2 karma

confirmed northerner

NewsThump1 karma

Southerners think I'm a northerner, northerners think I'm a southerner.

inbelievable1 karma

How do you find new writers?

NewsThump2 karma

I'd love to take credit for having an eye for raw talent, and that I'm particularly skilled at nurturing rough diamonds before getting them to create wonderful articles for our pages, but I can't - the reality is, they find us.

We have a submissions page here if you want to know more: http://newsthump.com/writing-for-newsthump/

Subgerbil1 karma

  1. Thank you for your website, it has made my Facebook quite a bit funnier!
  2. What's your thoughts on brexit?
  3. How do you feel about comedy becoming the most honest way to talk about the news?

NewsThump6 karma

  1. You're welcome, and glad to hear it.

  2. I think it's going pretty much as expected at the moment, which is to say some negative impacts, but we're at least 6 months from seeing some real impact on the economy. I genuinely hope it won't be as bad as some of the predictions have made out, but I fear it's going to be be a rough few years. I wrote (a very rare) serious piece about Brexit here, prior to the referendum, and I stand by what I wrote at the time, I think it was 60/40 we'd be better off in, than out. I also REALLY don't like the element of our society that seems empowered as a result, I didn't see that being as prevalent as it is.

  3. I think it's always been the case, from the days of Jonathan Swift, to That Was The Week That Was, to modern day greats like Armando Ianucci. Satire (and comedy generally) is always funnier when there's an element of truth to it, so making fun of the political climate is a powerful way to question the ideas and policies put before us.

Izetta-sama0 karma

[deleted]

NewsThump1 karma

Native advertising is a bit shit, but we don't always see the same ads you do. Unfortunately, it's a fact of life now that people ignore a lot of traditional online advertising formats, but they don't ignore these type of ads - I really wish that weren't the case, but it is. We pay our writers a % of the ad revenue from the site, so without them, we couldn't pay the writers.

I would love to swap them out for something else, but that something else would have to pay the bills and the writers.

We've blocked about 20 ads this year from our native ad provider, and we're happy to block any that are deemed inappropriate, but we need to know about them - get in touch via our contact page if something is particularly bad, thanks!

Izetta-sama1 karma

[deleted]

NewsThump2 karma

Ah, ok - it looks like they are ads served to ad-blocked visitors. Do you have an ad-blocker enabled? Full disclosure, we were approached by an ad firm who said we can display ads to ad-blocked visitors, so we thought it might be worth trialling it - we didn't know the sort of ads that would be served at that point. We have a contract that runs out in January, and won't be renewing, but we're locked in with them until then, sorry.

J_D_S_Reddit0 karma

What dark and terrible place were you in when you thought this might be a good idea?

NewsThump1 karma

We were convinced in the pub over the weekend, but it wasn't that dark...

elyl0 karma

Do you always use The Daily Mash stories for "inspiration", or just like, 95% of the time?

NewsThump3 karma

We have a gentleman's agreement not to make the same joke if the other has done it previously, but it does still happen from time to time. And it happens both ways; one of their top ten stories from last year was an almost identical headline to one we published the day before.

Being 'first' to do a joke is difficult these days, and sometimes you'll find someone made the joke on Twitter, worded slightly differently, a couple of hours before you - all you can do is try your best to ensure it doesn't happen.