Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh on Surrounding Himself with More Talent, and the Future of the Global Humor Blog Network
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what to do with him. So we wanted to kind of write about our experience having a dog here in Seattle. It was a personal project. It wasn’t like there were any ads running with it. It was just something we wanted to do for fun. And then all of the sudden there was a pet food recall. This was back in 2007. And a whole bunch of pet food got recalled, a whole bunch of cats and dogs died because of the food. There was huge national news around it. And the company responsible for the recall had taken down their website. And what they had done, is they’d removed the homepage, so when you would go to the homepage, you couldn’t find anything right… And I dug around and I was able to find a cached file—a PDF of their annual report, which outlined their customers, their revenues, their facility locations and things like that. And just because I knew how to be a reporter, right—you dig a little deeper, right? So I posted it on this personal blog that we were running about our dog, and it got linked to from everybody. And one of them was a site called I Can Has Cheezburger, run by two people in Hawaii. And I contacted them and we kind of struck up a friendship. And so I just ended up helping them out because I knew a little bit more than they did. You know, in the land of blind people, a one-eyed man is king. So after that we became friends, and one day I showed the traffic to Andy, and he said, ‘Why don’t you buy the website?’ And I said, you know, I don’t have that kind of money. And so we said, I will run the company, I will do the deal, I will form the company and run it, and Andy will help me raise the money.
X: It sounds like you really weren’t anticipating going down this mass humor blog route?
BH: No. Although, when we bought the site, I think the investors thought, do we have a pet community here? And I said, well we do, but really I think the market is humor—that’s the growth market, not pets.
X: We heard LOLcats isn’t your favorite Cheezburger site, since you yourself are allergic to cats?
BH: No, actually that is my favorite! Though I am allergic to cats, I Can Has Cheezburger is still my favorite site just because it’s the one that we started with and it’s still the one I save to read at the end of the day. That’s probably the site I read most consistently too. At the end of the day, same time, that’s what I read. It’s kind of like my little moment of happiness.
X: What are your other top favorite sites in the network?
BH: Obviously FAILblog. I think FAILblog is a great window into the—into schadenfreude —the ability to laugh at other people’s misery. I also really like The Daily Wh.at, which is our latest acquisition. And we really enjoy that site just because it’s such a great mixture of news and content that I’m interested in. It’s run by one editor [Neetzan Zimmerman], who’s out of Boston, and he’s just like a machine. [That site] was actually named by Time magazine this week as one of the top 100 blogs they love.
X: When did you acquire The Daily Wh.at?
BH: About six months ago.
X: How big was it when it joined the Cheezburger network, and what have you done to expand its audience?
BH: It’s grown 300 percent in the last six months.
X: You guys have grown rapidly since your start, and especially the last year, with many new hires coming on board, including your new CFO Pearl Chan, which Cheezburger is announcing today. Tell me about Pearl. When did you decide to bring her on board?
BH: We’d actually been working with her for about 18 months on a part-time basis prior to this, so we wanted to bring her on full-time because we felt that our needs … Next Page »