Can the man who popularized LOLcats reinvent the way we read news online? Ben Huh, the chief executive of Cheezburger, the wildly popular network of comedy Web sites, wants to try. Why? Well, quite bluntly, he thinks the “experience of consuming news sucks.”
In order to address that problem, the Seattle entrepreneur has formed The Moby Dick Project, an effort to spark dialogue on how to improve news presentation.
“Journalism was my first passion,” Huh tells GeekWire. “I think it’s important to rethink journalism in the face of all that we know and (all that has) changed.”
In his blog post introducing the project, Huh said that he’s no more qualified to lead the discussion than an “average news junkie.”
“It’s been too long since journalism school and I don’t work in the news, but I would like to bring together great minds and passionate people around this problem,” Huh writes.
Huh studied journalism at Northwestern University, and he’s joked in the past that his professors at the prestigious Medill School probably hate how his Web sites butcher the English language.
Nonetheless, Huh thinks there are basic problems that need solved. He writes:
The limited amount of space on news homepages and their outmoded method of presentation poses big problems for the distribution of news as well as consumption by the public. Even though it’s been more than 15 years since the Internet became a news destination, journalists and editors are still trapped in the print and TV world of message delivery.
Huh is operating The Moby Dick Project as a side effort, and he’ll remain in his day-to-day role at Cheezburger, which just scored $30 million in venture capital from Madrona Venture Group, Foundry Group and others. There are no resources tied to The Moby Dick Project at the moment, with Huh adding that he’s not trying to build a new company.
Ideally, he said, an open source project would emerge from the effort which would benefit various news organizations.
At a cocktail reception last night in Seattle, Tina Brown of The Newsweek Daily Beast Company explained part of her vision of where the news business is headed. Wetpaint CEO Ben Elowitz also attended the reception, noting afterwards that breaking news is an especially tough problem to solve.
ReadWriteWeb has more details on Huh’s plans, with editor Marshall Kirkpatrick writing that the journalist-turned-Internet-entrepreneur has a “uniquely well-informed perspective on the changing world of media consumption” since his sites attract about 400 million page views per month.