Harvard kids ‘Lampoon’ Arianna Huffington
Launched early Monday morning, "The Huffington Psst," like the site it parodies, has enticing headlines—such as "Leaked Clinton Nudes Announce Candidacy"—fake celebrity blog posts, too-real fake non-celebrity blog posts, even fake HuffPsst Live videos and TED talks.
Created by Harvard's famous humor magazine The Harvard Lampoon, The Huffington Psst is not the first Huffington Post parody—Stephen Colbert launched "The Colbuffington Repost" in 2011 and Mad Magazine did a "Puffington Host" issue earlier this year—but it is certainly the most elaborate, with over one hundred fake news stories, alongside quizzes, polls, and videos. It's also dynamic, with plans to continue updating nearly every day for the month of September.
In past years, the Lampoon has parodied popular books and magazines with its own spoof print products. But this year, the magazine—led by president Alexis Wilkinson—decided to try something more ambitious.
"Every summer, we do some sort of parody project. In the past, it's either been a book or magazine parody...but always print, never digital before. We got a donation and we got a corporate sponsor to sponsor us doing our first-ever digital one," Wilkinson said.
They decided on The Huffington Post because of its distinctive format and colorful founder.
"It has a distinctive leader, with her own personality, her own larger-than-life thing," said Wilkinson, who made headlines earlier this year when she was named the first-ever African American woman to lead the Lampoon. "We think that's very funny, especially [Lampoon vice president Eleanor] Parker and I...being women ourselves, we really admire Arianna and we know she has a great sense of humor, so we thought this was the perfect opportunity."
The site's corporate sponsor is Hello Products—"an indie toothpaste brand," according to Wilkinson—and its sponsorship is hard to miss. Just like a real online news site, The Huffington Psst is loaded with branded content and native ads, alongside more traditional banner ads.
"If you look on the site, we have an ad for quinoa vodka and there are a couple other ads, but as far as overall creative partnerships, Hello Products is our only sponsor in that regard. So not only do they get better ads and things like that but we also wrote and filmed a video ad for them that is on HuffPsst Live," Wilkinson said. "We also gave them some sponsored content around the site, especially in the Healthy Living section. We wrote editorial content for them...We did editorial, video, and just the classic banner ads.'"
There's even a branded quiz: "Which Lampoon sponsor are you?"
The site has gotten a positive reaction, Wilkinson said, receiving about 100 simultaneous visitors at any one time. The targets of its parodies have also been impressed.
"We wrote a blog from the perspective of Sheryl Sandberg, and Sheryl actually emailed me not too long ago and said that she thought it was really funny!" Wilkinson said, laughing.
Arianna Huffington is also a fan.
"The fact that the team at the Harvard Lampoon chose to spend its summer vacation exploring the deepest intricacies of The Huffington Post universe instead of backpacking across Europe speaks volumes about the state of higher education in America," she said in a statement sent to Capital. "For us, the big benefit is knowing who to call to keep things running in the event everyone at HuffPost decides to spend next summer backpacking across Europe."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly named Alexis Wilkinson as the first woman president of the Lampoon. While she is the first African American woman in the role, the first woman was Lisa Henson, daughter of the late Muppetteer Jim Henson.