TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Bill Radke: Right now I am looking at the hugely popular Web site I Can Has Cheezburger. It’s basically a stream of cat photos with captions. Here’s a kitty being bathed against its will
saying and saying: “I vehemently protest this intrusive moisture upon my person!” A Seattle entrepreneur named Ben Huh owns this and dozens of other humor sites where the content comes from the masses and the profits go to investors — millions of dollars in ad revenue, licensing fees and merchandise sales. He calls it the Cheezburger Network. Hi Ben.
Ben Huh: Hi, how ya doin’?
Radke: I’m good thank you. You’ve said you’re in the time-wasting business.
Huh: That’s right.
Radke: Why should I waste time with your content instead of wasting time with YouTube videos?
Huh: You know that’s a great question. There’s no reason for us to favor one over the other, but what we want to make sure is we provide reliable content every day that’s going to make you laugh, right. So YouTube is a vast repository of videos that may or may not be great, whereas when we editorial curate the featured stuff on the homepages, which is what most people see, we’re taking care to make sure that the five minutes you spend on our sites are actually going to be spent well.
Radke: And to do that, you’re digging through how many submissions? Let’s say on I Can Has Cheezburger.
Huh: So actually, across the network total, across the Cheezburger network, we see about 13,000 submissions each day.
Radke: Every day.
Huh: Every single day. And we have half the company, is actually dedicated to managing that community, sifting through those pieces of content so that they’re appropriate and to post the best onto the sites. And we know which ones are good not because we decide that they’re good, but becuase the users vote on each others’ submissions and say, this one’s funny, this one’s not.
Radke: So are the people you hire, are they specialists in any way? I mean do they have to have a certain humor or are they just aggregators?
Huh: They absolutely have no special skill set in a tradiational job sense. But what we do look for is we look for a understanding of what we call Internet culture. So when we hire these people, it’s not the age, it’s not where you went to school, it’s not any of that — it’s that, how do you live on the Internet? Do you see it as a tool that you use to go find information? Or is the Internet your primary source of popular culture? And that’s what we look for.
Radke: How sick are you of people saying, “Uchh, funny cat captions? Gimme a break.”
Huh: You know, I’m actually not, because I know that’s so much more for us to grow into. It’s just a sign that we haven’t done our job fully yet and there’s a lot more left to do.
Radke: Ben Huh owns the Cheezburger network. Thank you.
Huh: Thank you.
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