Last February, AOL and HBO joined forces to create a website for comedy video called ThisJustIn.com. The effort was HBO’s first effort to bring its content development skills online outside of HBO.com.
The Hollywood Reporter reported today, citing unnamed sources, that This Just In will shut down in August.
Predating comedy portal FunnyorDie.com (launched in April with a number of Hollywood stars), “This Just In” was designed to be a home for original content, and something of a focus group for developing new material with the niche of comedy video.
Rather than using popular video sites for distribution of original content and following a syndication model, the site was formed as its own entry into the already crowded Internet video portal marketplace. It was designed to replace AOL’s own comedy channel and AOL was to monetize it with advertising.
Though the site was aimed at comedy, it never got the laughs nor much of an audience and now, it’s getting the hook; the infamous “get off the stage” red light is flashing.
The shutdown was foreshadowed by a management shakeup over the past few months. Chairman and CEO Chris Albrecht recently left, as did digital executives Jim Moloshok and Carmi Zlotnik. Steve Stanford, who ran the site was also laid off last month.
Even without management shakeups, the traffic performance at the site should have been an indicator its punch lines were missing their mark. The 3 month average Alexa Traffic rating for the site ranks it about 50,503 globally and gives it a current rank of 10,241 in the U.S. In contrast, fellow comedy video site “Funny or Die” has a 3 month average rank of 4,371 and is 1,102 in popularity it the U.S. Those numbers are a world apart within the niche and they’re miniscule when compared to traffic and centralized Net Video portals. Sites that provide syndication or single platform content, like Veoh or YouTube or MySpace TV, are all in the top 150 properties and comedy centric content is a staple of their programming.
AOL and HBO would have been better served putting their talents toward content generation instead of trying to create a destination site at the same time. Building audience and buzz to compete with the myriad of video sites already out there was, apparently, too big of a challenge.