First Mover: Chris Mohney | Adweek First Mover: Chris Mohney | Adweek
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First Mover: Chris Mohney

Tumblr's first EIC on the blog platform becoming more of a publishing hub

Photo: Elizabeth Lippman

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For people that don’t get Tumblr or think it’s just another blogging tool, how do you explain it?
It’s an experience for creative people. But it’s less about people themselves. It’s not like Facebook. It’s for people who are heavily invested in active discovery. We want to help people find little stories no one’s ever heard of.

So why does Tumblr need an editor in chief? Does this mean we’ll soon seen Tumblr the Magazine?
That’s exactly what I do not want to do. I’m not coming at this job with a huge laundry list of demands. That’s not the way it’s going to happen. Instead, I’ve been picking the brain of everybody at Tumblr. We are just going to start very simple. It’s evolving, but the basic project is telling stories on Tumblr about Tumblr. For example, we’re highlighting creative work on the platform where Tumblr is almost incidental. For example, we’ve got a bunch of in-house Tumblr blogs, for support, design, a staff blog. Just simple things so that when we make a change, we can explain what we are doing. We’ve got 40 million users. That staff blog is the biggest hammer we have, and there hasn’t been a lot of gas behind it. We want to become more of a publishing hub. The purpose of [much of this] is to highlight creative work. The work we are going to do has to be additive and strategic. [There is a lot content on Tumblr] that is interesting to creative communities who may or may not be on Tumblr. That’s a really nice mandate to have.

Give me an example of something you’ll want to highlight.
The easiest thing to do is to find interesting user profiles. Not necessarily Tumblr users with huge followings; we have people doing really creative work, even some long-form work, that nobody knows about.

But something new is coming that is geared for consumers, right?
We’ll be rolling out four new staff blogs [April 18]. And yes, an as-yet undisclosed editorial product is planned for a May release.

You were most recently at BlackBook, publisher of BlackBook magazine and BlackBook Guides [now part of Vibe Media/Access Network], which produces tons of local lifestyle content. One assumes at a job like that you basically go out all the time.
I went out when I could. I used to do these travel stories, where you’d visit a location, go berserk for a month. Even in your 20s, that can really kill you quickly. BlackBook was a big job, even though it was a niche brand. You have a 15-year-old magazine and a niche website. And we were doing apps for other brands, like MTV. By the time I left, [BlackBook Guides] were in 70 markets. Once the scope becomes that large, you start needing teams of freelancers. There was absolutely no way I could do all that. If I were 10 years younger, certainly.

What made you decide to make a move?
I was doing more and more high-level management of my team at Blackbook and found myself longing to do pure editorial. I helped build an excellent team. There was obviously a very clear path [toward management]. It happened to hit me at the right time.

What’s your management style?
I’m a big believer in delegating, giving people lots of responsibility, maybe even more than they can handle. You don’t want a roster of order takers. Failing is OK. When you micromanage, you get people that don’t care.