Last Friday Mediaweek spoke with one of the founders of Mumbrella, Tim Burrowes, about the recent sale of the business to Diversified for a reported $8m. We conclude the interview today with Burrowes talking about his best and worst decisions and his work “persona”.
Were there any other potential owners of Mumbrella in the past?
Despite lots of chat over the years, Burrowes admitted they never got terribly close to a deal with any other party before the arrival of Diversified.
Mumbrella’s biggest success:
Burrowes: “The decision to go for scale, rather than for profit. As the commercial boss, [partner] Martin Lane‘s role was to make sure we would still be in business in a year’s time! I would often argue we should spend more money here and there with an eye to longterm growth. Martin would argue we had to think more about the P&L, and we would usually meet somewhere in the middle. We developed a policy where we were not rushing to make bigger profits, it was always about building a quality product the audience would believe in.”
Burrowes: “We dropped $200,000+ a few years attempting to do an iPad edition of Mumbrella. It was fairly clear we got the strategy wrong and we learned a lot from that process. It was certainly the one thing we did that lost us the most money. I might be able to think of something more disastrous if I thought a bit harder. But let’s leave it at that!”
When asked about a temporary move into print, he reveals that is not too near the top of the list. “To this day I am not sure if that was a mistake. If it was I am not sure how much it was about execution versus strategy. We could have executed better. Certainly print was not going to be a longterm thing, although there are a number of people getting into print now with some success as part of a multiplatform offering.”
The Tim Burrowes Ego:
We asked this because a former boss of Burrowes, former B&T publisher Jeremy Knibbs, mentions it several time in a post on LinkedIn.
“That’s an entertaining piece! I am terribly flattered he took the time to write the piece. I enjoyed working for him…it was entertaining times.
“One of the jobs of anyone who is the face of a publication is to be a persona. It took me a while, but I have come to the realisation that when people go after me on social media, they are going after the persona I have created.
“One thing I have become comfortable with is, don’t worry about offending people if you honestly believe what you’re saying is true. I don’t do it for the sake of controversy, but do it because I believe it to be true.
“The persona I have professionally would not necessarily be reflected in how I live my personal life.”
Will new owner Diversified change the Mumbrella product?
Burrowes: “I don’t think so. All the message so far from Diversified is they have been very respectful about what we are doing. What they are buying is an editorial product and they want that product to maintain its direction and maintain its standards. That was one of the attractive things about Diversified. They aren’t big publishers and we won’t have someone standing over our shoulder telling us how to do it better.
“Diversified can teach us a lot about running events, and in turn we can ultimately share some of the things we have learned about the publishing side.”