The Downfall Of Cracked.com & The Cancellation Of The Once Famous Cracked Podcast
The most ironic thing about Cracked.com is the addictive nature of its content. It was easy to become dependent on the steady stream of quality topics that were synonymous with its namesake. The Cracked podcast hosted by Alex Schmidt holds its place amongst the most innovative online shows of all time. Unfortunately, the podcast was cancelled back in May 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cracked stands out as one of the most influential pop culture publications in recent history, but they've certainly made a few mistakes along the way. Some consumers believe that there has been a steady gap in quality since the departure of founder Jack O'Brien in 2017. A quick search on Reddit confirms this point and gives you a prompt insight into the change of direction of the publication.
In 2007, Cracked was doing fairly well and racked up around 200,000 unique visitors to the site every month, with 3 to 4 million page views. Their long-form feature content which they published daily was viewed by almost a million people each day. It was this early success that they used to catapult themselves into the mainstream.
By 2010, Cracked drew in over one billion page views. The utter power and weight of the online comedy publication made it a force to be reckoned with. The biggest draw to the site was the journalistic integrity of its writers and the promise of honest, quality, comedic, content.
Enter the Cracked Podcast. 348 episodes of utter brilliance, courtesy of the great Alex Schmidt. A standout episode titled 'How Evolution Made Us Unfit For The Modern World' has over 150 million views and holds a five-star rating across multiple podcasting platforms. Engaging, insightful and a relaxed sense of humour made the Cracked podcast stand out amongst its competitors in a way that completely buried its competition.
Alex Schmidt and Jack O'Brien played to their strengths respectively and used their humour, wit and intelligence to offer fresh perspectives on some of the most important cultural topics of the time. Every week the pair delivered outstanding thought-provoking material that struck a chord and resonated with its listeners. It seemed that Cracked had the perfect formula for success and we're running with it, but everything would soon change.
The downfall started in 2016 when Cracked.com was purchased by the E.W. Scripps Company for $39 million. Not long after, founder and editor-in-chief
Jack O'Brien stepped down from his legacy position to work full time on building the new comedy podcast division at HowStuffWorks. An imminent drop in the quality of published content followed shortly. Readers started to notice a stark shift in direction for the publication who began dishing out a fair amount of clickbait and sensationalised content almost immediately after their acquisition.
On February 24th 2018, Michael Swaim, Cracked's in house video producer, posted a video to the Small Beans YouTube channel titled "Dan & Mike are fighting". He discussed the recent layoffs and increasing tension behind the scenes. He opened up about his plight with alcoholism and eventually stopped turning up to work, only appearing in video projects and podcasts.
Meanwhile, Alex Schmidt was unceremoniously fired from the Cracked podcast sometime around June 7th 2020, based on a tweet that he sent out on June 9th.
"A company called Literally Media bought Cracked.com nine months ago. A few days ago, they fired me. As far as I know, there won’t be more Cracked Podcast episodes...That is less important than the news right now. But if you’re curious, here’s what I can share".
This cryptic tweet led some fans on Reddit and Twitter to believe that there was a lot of trouble behind the scenes at the Cracked offices that hadn't yet surfaced publically. This was later confirmed by assistant editor Soren Bowie who left Cracked in 2017 to write for American Dad. He revealed along with then fellow assistant editor Daniel O'Brien on their Quick Question podcast in 2019, that there had been problems at Cracked for many months before their departure.
The last episode of the Cracked podcast aired in May 2020 and the show was officially cancelled shortly after. Alex Schmidt was obviously hurt by the behind the scenes drama that took place at Cracked, but he somehow remained as decisive as ever. For the last year and a half, he's been hosting his own successful show titled the 'Secretly Incredibly Facinating' podcast'.
Whilst it's not hard to track down the whereabouts of Cracked's old staff roster, the majority are being uncharacteristically coy about the specific details surrounding their departures. A creative power struggle definitely took place behind the scenes at Cracked, but the real reason why the powerhouse publication fell from grace is because of a definitive drop in the quality of their content.
The bottom line is simple, Cracked were bought by a company that wanted nothing more than to break into the digital media market. But they knew nothing about the nuances of managing a creative media stream and vainly tried to cut costs wherever they could. This resulted in all of the best people at Cracked being fired until the company self-destructed into oblivion and stopped creating great content.
The amount of tension behind the scenes during the downfall of Cracked has not been publically divulged and is still a hot topic to this day. Cracked staff and writers were clearly mistreated by executives and higher-ups and have only eluded to small details. As far as we know, no allegations have been brought against Cracked executives but the revelation of time will surely reveal the truth.
When Jack O'Brien left Cracked, corporate greed soon took over and vastly outweighed the creative conscience of the company's bottom line. It's always a shame to see such an esteemed publication that was built on journalistic integrity fall so far from grace, but they're still may be hope yet.
As for the future of the Cracked podcast and Cracked.com, it's too soon to tell. But, since being shut down and sold to Literally Media, Cracked uploaded its first new video in April 2020. The series is called "Your Brain On Cracked' and is hosted by long term Cracked journalist Jordan Breeding.
Since then, Cracked has worked hard to revitalise its brand image and has been slowly climbing the ladder, hoping to emulate its earlier success.