A funny thing happened on the way to the office: Elon Musk decided to hire staff from The Onion for his next venture.

It sounds nuts, but then, Musk said that, when he started them, Tesla and SpaceX had only a 10 percent chance of success. (To be fair, there are many still waiting to see if Tesla will ever hit its production goals.)

According to a Daily Beast story, it's true. Musk once tried to buy The Onion and a secret project of his has hired "several top staffers and writers."

Back in February, The Onion ran a piece titled "Elon Musk Offering $1.2 Billion in Grants to Any Project That Promises to Make Him Feel Complete." Mock Musk, eh? Take that, Onion.

Seriously--well, as seriously as you can get when talking satire--there's money being thrown around, and there's nothing funny about that. Elon took on former editor-in-chief Cole Bolton and executive editor Ben Berkley, who left the publication last year after differences with management. Recently, that duo lured away three writers and an editor from the Onion.

Hmm, a year is often a timeframe for a business non-compete and agreement not to poach personnel. Comedy is easy. Competition is hard.

In a statement to the Daily Beast, Bolton and Berkley wrote, "We can confirm that we have learned nothing from prevailing trends in media and are launching a brand-new comedy project."

Wait, is it delivering cars on time? Ba-DUM.

As Musk told the Daily Beast in what seems to be a separate statement:

"It's pretty obvious that comedy is the next frontier after electric vehicles, space exploration, and brain-computer interfaces. Don't know how anyone's not seeing this."

Ah, maybe Musk should stick to his day job.

There is a potential downside. Focus is important in any undertaking, and Musk is stretched as it is among multiple businesses. He'd need some strong administrative talent to keep things moving along financially as well as editorially.

In any case, why would Musk do this? Answer: Why not? He's clearly been a risk-taker in his career that has focused on things he finds interesting. Media may be a rocky landscape, that's a given, but there is clearly money to be made. Even ventures like BuzzFeed, which missed its revenue numbers, can bring in significant sums. Other upsides: Creation and production are fast (compared to the electric car business) and the intellectual property offers many leverage opportunities. Plus, the great parties. Well, maybe not that.

Why do you think Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post? It wasn't purely civic duty.

Published on: Mar 14, 2018
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