Blurb CEO Todd Larsen joined the company on January 12, 2016. And while he brings significant executive leadership experience to Blurb (with stints at Dow Jones & Company and Time Inc.), Todd may have other reasons why he is already enjoying his new role at the company. His father has made at least 20 books with Blurb, and his brother had self-published with Blurb for his real estate business.
“I’m very familiar with Blurb—I’m a big fan,” he said. “Also, I collected books as a kid, so I’m really thrilled to be here.”
We sat down with Todd to find out more about him, his background, and what opportunities he sees for Blurb.
Your idea of happiness is… When both my kids are laughing at the same time.
What you appreciate the most in your friends… Unconditional support.
If not yourself, who would you be? Phil Mickelson.
Your favorite prose author… Tom Wolfe.
Your favorite book… The Right Stuff .
Your favorite food and drink… Anything chocolate—particularly if it contains the words molten or lava.
Sweet or savory? Sweet, of course!
Your favorite motto… “That which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.”
Why did you accept the position of CEO at Blurb?
I was looking to do something different. I like the intersection of new media and traditional media—and I have been dealing with transformation at the intersection of those two dimensions for many years. Blurb gives me an opportunity to deal with many of the transformation issues I am familiar with but from a more offensive position and be a disruptor rather than the disrupted. I also like the opportunity of running a private company as its CEO.
In addition, I have been New York based for my entire career. While I have run global businesses, I am very excited to be working in San Francisco, and to see things from a different perspective and meet a new, broader circle of people.
What do you believe are the top opportunities for Blurb?
I see a huge opportunity for Blurb to be very disruptive to the publishing business by offering a better service offering for authors of certain niches and sizes that are not well served by the market today.
We have a large and loyal customer base. I see opportunity to expand that base through marketing to drive stronger awareness and education both in the U.S. and across the globe.
What did you do while you were at Time Inc.?
I oversaw global operations of some of well-known media brands, including Time, People, Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated and Fortune. I was able to revitalize their digital business and create the video team, which has become a major revenue growth driver for the company.
And before that you were at Dow Jones & Company…
Right. I spent 13 years at Dow Jones & Company, most recently as President for 10 years. In that role, I was able to lead the growth of the Wall Street Journal’s digital business and global business operations for publications and products such as The Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch, Factiva and Dow Jones Newswires. I’m very proud that the Wall Street Journal was a pioneer in the paid business model for the publication across Web, mobile, and tablet platforms. I was also part of a team that oversaw the Journal’s transformation into a more complete newspaper with additional national and international news, sports, opinion and culture to complement its business and financial coverage.
You left Time Inc. in December of 2014. What have you been doing since your departure?
I took an extended break to travel and spend some quality time with my family and focus on a charitable foundation that I run. And, of course, work on my golf game. This opportunity with Blurb came up in the last couple of months. The more I thought about the strong fit with what I wanted to do next, the more I realized I was ready to go back to work.