Tumblr’s David Karp on the closing of Storyboard: It ‘didn’t work’

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David Karp. (Wikimedia commons)
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Tumblr founder David Karp elaborated this morning on his recent decision to shut down Storyboard, the blogging behemoth's in-house editorial operation.

"We gave it a year, and after evaluating it, we decided it wasn't really the right tool in our tool box," said Karp, speaking at a conference hosted by the website paidContent. "It was working in some regards. It wasn't working in the ways we intended."

When I profiled Storyboard last year, Chris Mohney, the site's editor and an alumnus of Gawker and Blackbook, described its mandate as "marketing as journalism" designed to "smooth the path for people we judge to be creative and who are inclined to join the community and put their creative work here."

The site, which produced content having something to do with Tumblr in one way or another, commissioned hundreds of features and forged partnerships with major media outlets including MTV, The Daily Beast, WNYC and New York magazine.

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But there was no clear picture of how exactly Storyboard might bring results for Tumblr's bottom line. Tumblr has received massive infusions of capital and is reportedly valued at $800 million but is not yet profitable.

In a blog post last Tuesday evening that took media-watchers by surprise, Karp announced that "what we’ve accomplished with Storyboard has run its course for now, and our editorial team will be closing up shop and moving on."

Mohney and two other members of his small team were laid off, including Jess Bennett, who had previously been a reporter at Newsweek.

If there had been any premonition that Storyboard was on its way to the gutter, they hadn't picked up on it. They only learned about the decision earlier in the day before Karp made his announcement on Tumblr's staff blog, according to sources familiar with how the terminations went down.

During his appearance at the paidConent event, where Mohney also had previously been scheduled to make an appearance on a separate panel, Karp reiterated that "it's not a knock on that team at all. ... Like many creative ambitions, some work, some don't. This one didn't work the way we intended for it to work."

Karp made his remarks amid reports of recent departures within Tumblr's executive circle, which The New York Observer characterized as a "leadership vacuum."