But more than a decade on from founding the Daily Mash, the creators of the popular satirical news website are laughing all the way to the bank after being bought out in a £1.2 million deal.
Paul Stokes, a former business editor of The Scotsman, launched the site in 2007 alongside Neil Rafferty, a former political correspondent for the Sunday Times Scotland and reporter for the Press Association.
The duo originally planned to launch an online newspaper which would offer sober, factual reports about developments at Holyrood and Scottish business.
But after deciding to embark on a flight of fancy and emulate longstanding satirical sites such as the Onion, they built up what became Britain’s most popular humour website.
With its acerbic and at times surreal stories that mete out venom and whimsy to their targets, the site’s relentless spoofing of the Fourth Estate has attracted a loyal following, with around 1.8 million visitors clicking on its content every month.
Headlines which featured on the site yesterday included “Britain determined to make Keep Calm and Carry On posters necessary”, “Irish border will be free of Popes, May assures DUP”, and “Woman believes 83 Facebook friends actually give a toss about her birthday”.
The precision of its satire has, at times, even been mistaken for genuine news, with Sky News once accidentally reading aloud a Daily Mash headline which claimed Ken Livingstone, the former mayor of London, had a pet newt called Adolf.
Its success has also led to a spin off television series, the Mash Report, above, which is broadcast on BBC2.
But as well as winning readers and plaudits, the enterprise has proved profitable for Mr Stokes and Mr Rafferty.
Its parent company, the Glasgow-based Mashed Productions, recorded revenues of £396,000 and a profit before tax of £135,000 in the last financial year.
Now, the business has been acquired by Digitalbox Publishing, the owner of Entertainment Daily, in a cash and shares deal.
In a somewhat po-faced announcement to the stock market, at least by the Daily Mash’s standards, Digitalbox described its acquisition as a “niche content digital media business” which “would benefit from inclusion in a larger media business.”
It added: “Its strong editorial team and format approach mean it is capable of consistently generating high-quality, original humour content which is extremely hard to replicate.
Mr Rafferty, who is editor in chief of the satire site, said: “This is a great opportunity for the Mash to build on what we have created so far.
“My co-founder, Paul Stokes, did an incredible job building a profitable business from the ground up.
“Being part of Digitalbox and accessing their commercial and technical expertise, means we can keep building, while our fantastic team of writers continue to produce great content every day.”
The deal has been structured through a company called Polemos and will see Digitalbox float on AIM, London’s junior market, later this month. On flotation, Digitalbox will be worth around £12m to £13m.
James Carter, Digitalbox’s chief executive, said: “Our proposed admission to AIM will allow us to realise our ambition to create a market-leading, mobile-first digital media business through a buy and build strategy.
“Through our success with Entertainment Daily, we have a platform through which we can drive traffic and advertising revenue. The platform is scalable and we intend to add new titles to it.”