The Onion will no longer be printed in Madison after the July 25 issue. The satirical newspaper was founded in Madison in 1988 and went on to become a national brand.
Andrea Hansen, advertising sales manager at Capital Newspapers, which publishes The Onion locally, sent out an email this week explaining that the newspaper was not renewing its contract with The Onion. Hansen could not be reached for comment. Todd Sears, Capital Newspapers' general manager, did not respond to a request for comment.
Bob Marshall, a spokesman for The Onion's corporate headquarters in Chicago, confirmed the news in an email.
"Unfortunately, yes, the Madison print edition will discontinue at the end of the month," Marshall wrote. "The local readership of the paper remains strong, yet with the changing landscape of media, the advertising dollars needed to keep a Madison print edition going just weren't there."
But in a separate email, Onion CEO Steve Hannah said his company did not make the decision. "The Onion is published by the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison. They run the business. It will be their decision to continue or end the print edition in Madison, not ours. I suggest you contact them."
In a second email, Marshall added: "I would just like to reinforce that the decision to print or not rests with our contract partners, in this case Capital Newspapers, who we encourage you to seek comment from regarding this."
Marshall said The Onion's print operations were farmed out to local partners a few years ago, "which allowed us to focus on growing our digital offerings while others took care of the advertising and distribution of the physical print product."
He emphasized that The Onion will endure, despite losing the Madison print edition. "We've seen the company expand online in an incredible way, doubling readership both domestically and internationally. On top of that, 2013 is shaping up to be our biggest sales year in our history, with nearly all of that revenue coming from our ever-growing digital offerings.
"While our fans won't be able to grab a print edition from kiosks on the Square or the newsstands at the Memorial Union, we want to remind everyone that they'll still be able to read everything they found in the paper (plus a lot more) at TheOnion.com and AVClub.com," Marshall added.
The Onion was founded by Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson in 1988, when they were juniors at UW-Madison. Keck went on to found The Stranger, an alternative weekly in Seattle, where he remains the publisher, while Johnson went on to become publisher of the Weekly Alibi in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
"It's sad to hear but of course it makes sense, says Keck. "[The] Onion in print is a parody of daily newspapers and college students don't read daily newspapers anymore."
Keck also points to broader difficulties in publishing newspapers these days. "It's hard to make money, he says. "You need a local sales staff," he adds. After centralizing, "it didn't feel local anymore."
In reference to the first issue of The Onion, Marshall signed off this way: "Oh, and we hope that you guys have figured out that whole Mendota Monster mauling situation by now."
Judith Davidoff contributed to this report.
[Editor's note: This report was updated at 6:03 p.m. with comments from Tim Keck. It was also corrected to attribute a second email communication to Bob Marshall.]