The Onion - future 2137The good news is in the year 2137 humans are still living on planet Earth. The bad news is in the year 2137 humans are still living on planet Earth.

According to the The Onion, in 127 years the USA will have devolved into a united confederation of corporately owned territories with its citizens gladly welcoming the detonation of doomsday devices. The satirical publication’s latest send up of local and broadcast news outlets is an epic, 12-minute, mini-feature dubbed, Future: News from the Year 2137. As the New York Times calls it in their exclusive preview of the video, Future is a recovered newscast from “a ruinous future America.”

The video, which is scheduled to launch today after a year in the making, differs from The Onion’s other 300+ online video offerings in two ways: 1) The length, and 2) the cost. Traditionally a totally free publication relying solely on advertising revenue to cover production costs and turn a profit (both in its online and print versions), The Onion is selling downloads of Future on iTunes. You can own your own copy later today for the low cost of $2.

The question is, will anyone pay? As Andrew Wallenstein notes, we’ve seen the pay-for-play model multiple times from “deluded digital ventures desperately groping for a business model.” What’s different here is that The Onion already has a business model and is known for creating kick ass content (it’s so good, in fact, that Onion anchors are prone to poaching by broadcast television networks). When its rabid fans are used to consuming Onion content for free, will they be willing to pay a few bucks for premium programming?

The Freemium business model has been a staple of online entrepreneurs for nearly as long as the phrase “Web 2.0” has been around, but it’s rarely been deployed successfully when it comes to online video. Maybe in The Onion’s Future, that will change.

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