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A.V. Club Toronto to Shut Down

Arts and culture publication to cease both in print and online next week.

The current issue of the A.V. Club.

Torontoist has learned that the local iteration of the A.V. Club, the arts and culture publication put out by the Onion, will be ceasing operations at the end of this month. The last print issue will be published next Thursday, July 26; website updates will cease one day later. This applies to the entire print publication: not just the local content, but the Toronto edition of the Onion in its entirety.

The A.V. Club started up in Toronto about 10 months ago—their launch party was September 29—as part of an expansion into a number of cities. At the time, the idea was to establish a network of local publications which would publish both online and in print, sharing content that was broadly applicable and publishing location-specific stories alongside. The local A.V. Clubs were, with one exception (in Milwaukee), franchise operations; the Toronto edition was run by TorStar, which also counts the Toronto Star and the Grid among its titles.

The news formally went out internally via a staff memo today, which stated that TorStar made the decision “due to economic pressures resulting in declining ad revenues.” We asked Bob Hepburn, director of communications for TorStar, whether this boded ill for other TorStar publications in the short term; he told us that this decision is “specific to the Onion, but it’s well-known that advertising revenues for many publications and broadcast outlets across North America are declining.”

Though hopes were high for the A.V. Club, Toronto’s edition may have fallen prey to a particularly tight media market, says editor (and former Torontoist contributor) John Semley. “I had a lot of support from the publisher and they worked really hard,” he told us by phone today. “Especially in a city like Toronto that is one of the most competitive media environments in North America, the idea of starting up a new alt-weekly and thinking it will be immediately a success, because there is an insatiable appetite for this kind of thing…it’s just not true. It’s hard to do in a year… Everyone at the Onion and everyone at TorStar worked as hard as they could to make it work.”

Toronto is hardly the only city to find itself in this situation: over recent months, other local installments of the A.V. Club have been gradually shutting down as well. This is perhaps another element to the closure: it’s not just advertising revenue that declined—the editorial concept of a network of city-based publications has been eroded. “Ann Arbor opened right before Toronto and it was only open for a couple of months,” Semley says, “then Denver went down a couple of months ago—that was one of the big ones.” Other closures followed, and in the end, “even if Toronto was doing super well…you’re kind of just the last leaf on the branch waiting to fall off.”

TorStar’s internal memo specifies that there will be no job losses due to the closure of the A.V. Club, but this is because the jobs in question weren’t on TorStar’s books to begin with. The editor’s salary, and support services such as copy editing, were paid for by the Onion. Semley tells us that he doesn’t know when the website will go offline, but he does not anticipate that archives (with the exception of articles that made it to the national edition) will be available on an ongoing basis.

Representatives from the Onion were not immediately available for comment.

CORRECTION: July 20, 2012, 9:35 AM This article originally misspelled the name of the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan; the error has now been corrected.


  • Chris Orbz

    So… the Onion is gonna keep getting printed, but without the crappy section no one wanted in a satirical paper? Sweet.

    • Anonymous

      No. They are not printing anything at all.

    • Anonymous

      Your ignorance is deep and wide.

  • Jacob

    I haven’t seen The Onion anywhere for a couple of weeks now. I was wondering what was going on.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve never even heard of AV Club Toronto, but I do remember the Onion was coming to town. I never saw any boxes or stands distributing them, or anyone reading one. So, yeah, I think I figured out why they’re shutting down…

  • Area Man

    my life is ruined, im going to kill myself. please come back, onion.

  • Mathesond

    This is a downer. Then again, the Onion was never marketed, and not always easy to find

  • OgtheDim

    The Onion tended to be with the Metro stands around the subways.

    That having been said, I’ve been disappointed in the Onion here. The Onion started here printing Bush stuff from 2004 and has yet to look like anything but back issue filler.

    And the supposed Canadian content, beyond the AV club, consists of a map of Canada with 4 sentences describing not much going on…which is usually also the joke in one article per week.

    The quality isn’t there…sadly.

    Mind you, beats QMI.

    • John Semley

      The Onion comedy content is franchised and identical in every market, not back page filler from 2004. It reflects the daily updates on the website, assembled into digest form. There is a general assumption that Canadians know who Joe Biden and Mitt Romney are, especially given that Toronto is one of the largest markets for online traffic to the Onion (a decision which spurred the publication franchising here anyhow). The “Canadian voices” segment, you mentioned, was an attempt precisely to cater to this national market, without being able to hire writers to craft wholly original content for the market. It’s not like A.V. Club Ann Arbor had Ann Arbor-specific jokes or anything.

    • OgtheDim

      Ummm….so those bits where Bush is facetiously quoted talking to his staff that I read were either figments of my imagination….or the Onion doing back filler that you didn’t notice?

      Next I suppose your going to tell me I don’t dream in colour?

      As for the Canadian voices segment…..the attempt didn’t work because it didn’t change.

      • Robert Dayton

        I was one of The Canadian Voices writers. I believe that all of the writers for this segment were based in and around Toronto.

        • OgtheDim

          I get that local people did this….that’s not my point.

          I’m saying it didn’t change and thus wasn’t funny.

          • Robert Dayton


          • OgtheDim

            Every week…it was the basic same joke.


      • John Semley

        You’re right I guess I would have no idea what I’m talking about.

  • AV Club Reader

    I know this probably has no bearing on the closure, but Semley was such a tool and his articles so pretentious I’m not surprised they’re getting rid of him

  • Jjhunsecker

    The only “U” in Ann Arbor is the University of Michigan.

    • Laura Godfrey

      Thanks for spotting that error! Gold star for you, and a correction has been made.

  • CaligulaJones

    Come back, FRANK magazine…you did it first (well, in Canada) and best.

  • Suicide Boi

    Toronto nearly became a real city when the Onion came to town. Too bad it didn’t last.