The road to business success on the Internet is littered with the corpses of those who have tried and failed: sock puppets, online lackeys, search engines. So you’d be forgiven for thinking that a guy with a simple website filled with pictures of cats and funny sayings somehow slipped under the radar to become a corporate success.
Ben Huh, the impresario who acquired the website ICanHasCheezburger.com and made it a cultural phenomenon, has shown not only that he has his finger on the funny bone of America, but that he knows the secret recipe in this era of Facebook: one part humor, three parts public participation, one part keeping costs down; mix well; repeat.
The “repeat” part is important, because as successful as the initial website became on its mix of interactivity and free labor (people upload and caption their own cat photos), Huh has replicated the formula with a series of sites his company, Pet Holdings, has launched: Fail Blog (a treasury of impressive flops and flubs); There I Fixed It (a tribute to ingenuity and duct tape); Hacked IRL (altered signage); Engrish Funny (bad translations); Daily Squee (cute animals) and dozens more.
Most of these sites have not achieved anywhere near the traffic (or ad revenue) of Cheezburger, but some have made a dent in the cultural milieu—Fail Blog has become almost a public-participation version of Jackass—and Huh’s willingness to try a lot of different things, keep what sticks, drop the rest and move on would seem to indicate he is on the right track.
“Passion is an infinite source of energy,” Huh says. “It’s free, it makes you happy and it makes you want to tell others. We harness ours and our users’ passions to keep moving.” To wit: Last month, Huh’s little empire published its third book, Teh Itteh Bitteh Book of Kittehs, with 192 pages of—what else?—adorable kittens.
Published November 2010
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