Former Time Inc and Dow Jones executive, Todd Larsen, named new CEO at Blurb
Founder of San Francisco-based self-publishing platform steps aside to become executive chairman of the board of directors, as well as an advisor to the company
The self publishing platform Blurb today announced that former Time Inc. executive Todd Larson has been made the San Francisco-based companies new Chief Executive Officer. Larsen succeeds Founder and CEO Eileen Gittins, who will become executive chairman of the board of directors and an advisor to the company.
Larsen joins Blurb after having been ousted in a reshuffle at Time Inc, where he was Executive Vice President, Entertainment, News and Sports, managing Time, People, Entertainment Weekly, Fortune, Golf and Sports Illustrated. Executive VP Evelyn Webster, who had been managing Time’s lifestyle titles including InStyle, took over all of the US titles (though Times just last week announced that Rich Battista would be taking over the Sports Illustrated Group in order to “balance” her workload).
“Publishing has, sadly, had to let go a lot of people go over the last few years so now there is a wealth, an amazing array, of talent available on a freelance basis,” Gittins told TNM last year when announcing the company’s new design services. “So, the publishing industry’s loss is kind of self publishing’s gain. We have access to people who heretofore were completely booked, or even working full time at publishing houses.”
Now Gittens will be replaced by one of those recently let go.
“I look forward to remaining actively engaged with Blurb, its partners and its customers, and supporting Todd in his new role as CEO,” Gittens said in the company’s announcement of Larsen’s hiring. The WSJ reports that Gittens will now focus on new business.
“I am honored and excited to lead Blurb into its next phase of growth, expanding the company’s leadership position,” said Larsen in the same announcement. “Blurb will become an increasingly disruptive force in the publishing industry by continuing to empower individuals and businesses alike to express themselves through books and magazines, in print and digitally.”
Before being hired by then CEO Laura Lang for Time Inc., Larsen was at Dow Jones for nearly 13 years, leaving the company when Lex Fenwick was named CEO.
Unlike Amazon’s CreateSpace, Blurb’s focus was, at least initially, on high-quality, short-run books. Gittens, who had previously run two start-ups, was looking for a printing solution for some portrait photography.
“Why don’t I make book, seriously how hard can that be?” Gittens said in an interview with TNM in 2014.
“I knew all the technology existed,” Gittens said. “I had built to two internet companies so I thought ‘seriously, desktop publishing meets digital printing meets an ecom engine on the back-end, really? why is this not there?'”
So, Blurb was founded in 2006, mostly to be initially used by visual artists – photographers and graphic designers. Eventually, though, companies with marketing needs came calling for Blurb’s services due of the high quality printing the company specialized in.
“These were businesses like Nike and Pixar… a lot of books for wrap parties, for after a movie production is completed, everyone who worked on the film would get a beautiful book,” Gittens said. “Once we had that, then authors started to come because all of a sudden their unit economics, their cost basis on the books made it possible and reasonable for them to make a profit one each copy sold.”
Blurb has expanded its services and publishing options, but the market is dominated by Amazon, which provides lower cost, lower quality printing and digital book services. In some ways, there remains a big hole in the middle of the market as neither Amazon or Apple provide cross-platform options.