Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh on Surrounding Himself with More Talent, and the Future of the Global Humor Blog Network
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ones. So what I want to do is I want to remove myself from the day-to-day role of content and give it to somebody who’s going to devote 40 hours a week to it. And that’s what we’re hiring for right now.
X: For someone who might be interested in that job, what would your 30-second pitch be?
BH: It would be that this person would manage one of the largest humor communities online and one of the biggest media properties online, and it’s still the fastest growing. We’re a profitable organization and we’re here for the community, and we want to make sure that we can empower the people to entertain themselves.
X: You told us last year that your ultimate goal was to become a “first-tier publisher,” essentially a household name. Do you think you’ve reached that goal yet?
BH: I don’t think so. I think in the Internet community and the tech circles we’re pretty well known. I think we’re good in certain circles, but we’re not quite out to mainstream America yet. And that’s where we want to be. We want to change the way popular culture works. Popular culture today is very passive. You sit in front of the TV and you consume culture that comes through the TV, or movies, or what have you. We want to make sure that this is an engaged experience—that you are able to participate in the creation of culture that your peers or your family could also enjoy.
X: So how do you get there?
BH: I think we get there by making it really easy for people to participate and making sure that they want to participate in the creation of content.
X: There are five Cheezburger books, two of which are New York Times best sellers. Where did you get the idea to republish content from the sites into books?
BH: It was actually our literary agent who pursued us from the get go. She said ‘you really should turn this into a book,’ and we did not realize that we were basically at the forefront of this blogs-to-books industry. And so as we started it, and as we hit the New York Times best sellers list, the category exploded… So we’re going to concentrate on what we do well, which is basically make the community happy by featuring their photos in these books.
X: Any more books in the works?
BH: Yeah! We’ve got a book coming out called “There I Fixed It,” and that’s basically based on the same site, There I Fixed It. And we’ve got the third installment of the I Can Has Cheezburger book, which is going to be all kittens this time, so that should be absolutely adorable.
X: There seem to be a lot of things on your site that can be categorized as “absolutely adorable.”
BH: Thanks! That’s like one side of us—there’s this cute, funny, adorable animal/babies cluster, and then there’s all this really slapstick comedy, and then there’s more cerebral [content]. We’ve kind of covered all these different angles.
X: Do you think the company will ever venture into any other kind of web publishing that’s not comedy?
BH: I think we probably will, I think it’s just natural expansion for us. I don’t think we’ll ever get to the really hard news. I think our real angle is the happiness that we give to people, but we might kind of straddle that infotainment space.
X: Do you think you’ll ever leave Seattle?
BH: No, we like it here. We might open offices other places, but this is our home. And you can’t beat this view! [Points across the adjacent parking lot to the Space Needle]. I’m going to be so sad when they build a building here. I’m going to be like, ‘no, that’s our view!’