The April Fool's Day Format Change Prank
Tass Expands into American Market.
The Connecticut Gazette and Connecticut Compass, weekly newspapers serving the Old Lyme and Mystic areas, both announced they were being purchased by Tass, the official news agency of the Soviet Union. On their front pages they declared that this was "the first expansion of the Soviet media giant outside of the Iron Curtain." The article also revealed that after Tass had purchased the Compass, its two publishers had both been killed by "simultaneous hunting accidents" in which they had shot each other in the back of the head with "standard-issue Soviet Army rifles." An accompanying picture showed Gazette and Compass staff members wearing winter coats and fur hats, and carrying hockey sticks and bottles of vodka.
The announcement itself was bylined "By John Reed," and the new publisher, Vydonch U. Kissov, announced that the paper would be "thoroughly red." A new delivery system was also promised: cruise missiles (the publisher then admitted that this proposal was a 'leetle Soviet
The HA! Network.
MTV, VH-1, and Nick at Nite turned over their airwaves (and their 50 million viewers) to the HA! network, a comedy channel which broadcast in their place for the day. No one in the broadcast industry had been informed that the switch would take place. The broadcast was the debut of the Viacom-backed HA! network. Viacom had hoped that the prank would give the fledgling network some much-needed publicity.
The HA! network lasted a year before merging with the Comedy Channel.
KISW Format Change.
KISW, a Seattle Rock radio station, changed its format to what it called 'classical rock' for a day, playing a selection of classical music and rock. It advertised itself as "Seattle's best mix of the 1600s, 1700s, 1800s and today." It also promised a no-repeat Monday, saying that "you won't hear the same sonata twice."
Chicago radio station WXRT-FM announced it was turning into a digital, commercial-free "pay-per-hear" station. Its signal would be scrambled and divided into five different program formats that listeners would have to pay to listen to. The five formats would be "'XRT Basic," "'XRT Live," "'XRT Gold," "'XRT Espanol" and "sports-rock." The station announced the format change all day and then switched to a scrambled signal for several minutes. Hundreds of listeners called in to protest the change. One listener even showed up with a picket sign outside the station.
The Great Comic Strip Switcheroonie.
Comic strip fans opened their papers on April 1, 1997 and discovered their favorite strips looked different. Not only that, but in many cases characters popped up in other strips out of place. The reason for the chaos was the Great Comics Switcheroonie. Forty-six comic-strip artists conspired to pen each other's strips for the day. Scott Adams of Dilbert took over Family Circus by Bil Keane. Garfield and his owner visited the world of Blondie. And the character Nancy popped up in the Foxtrot comic strip wearing a Darth Vader outfit.
Popular social news site Reddit changed its layout to resemble that of its rival, Digg. It also rebranded itself "Reddigg". It proclaimed: "At last, change has come to reddit. Let us rejoice."
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All text Copyright © 2014 by Alex Boese, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.