Almost five years ago today, we were sitting on our couch while our beloved 9-month-old son ripped up magazines, Hoovered foreign matter into his mouth, and tipped over bookcases, when it dawned on us that we could not find a single parenting site that spoke to us, that bared a passing resemblance to the life we were living. Those we could find presented parenthood as a humorless interior decorating opportunity, all pinks and powder blues. And in that moment, we made a commitment to each other — we would create a more honest, funny, human website for parents, with fewer pastels. It would be more open, candid and interactive, a place for sharing the unadulterated highs and lows of parenting. And we had a hunch that the talented writers, editors and bloggers we knew and loved — many of whom were fellow bedraggled and exultant parents — would want to be a part of it.
The weeks and months following the birth of our first son were humbling, we won’t sugarcoat it. We were dumbfounded by how ill-prepared we were for this momentous life change. We had mastered other facets of our lives, and naively swaggered into parenthood with too much confidence. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves collapsed on the bed-which-was-also-a-changing-table, afraid of what the next night might bring, flipping through books at 4 a.m. trying to master the swaddle, shush, swing, and so on routine, awake when the world was asleep, wishing we were asleep when the world was awake, finally begging for support from the grandmothers. We hadn’t been so humbled since we were stuffing Kleenexes in our push-up bras (or trying to find the courage to ask out girls in just such bras). Sure, we’d had some forewarning — the magazines, the “what to expects,” the conversations with friends family and strangers — but we were ultimately struck by how few people grabbed us by the collar, looked us in the eye, and told us what we were in for. It was clear to us that someone needed to lift the façade and give it to parents straight.
And that’s what we did. On December 12, 2006, working closely with a small, wonderful team, we launched Babble feet-first, shouting from the mountaintop that there was a new website in town. Readers and press responded in spades, and we quickly realized we weren’t alone. Parents came out from hidden corners in droves wanting to connect and share and bare their imperfections, their struggles, their highs and lows — everything we were feeling and more. Over time, we took our small but mighty mission and grew it. Backed by some amazing venture capitalists (a special thanks to Bo at Village Ventures is due here), we expanded the team to include more exceptional editors, designers, developers and sales people. We broadened our purview from news and first-person accounts of the parenting experience to food, style, health and home not to mention ages and stages, personal blogs and soon a space for dads. We discovered the depth, breadth and beauty of the extraordinary world of mom bloggers, and made it a central mission to work in concert with the leading voices in the country. We published books, won awards, built new interactive features like Mominations and Babble Voices, and watched the Babble community grow to 4.5 million parents and counting.
During this same five year period, the story of our family has made progress as well — we now have three boys, Declan, Grey and Rye, we’ve met more parents like us, and we’ve finally come to appreciate the joys of waking up at 6 on Saturdays and hearing mommy mommy mommy in succession thirty-seven times. We’re not exactly pros at the juggling-on-a-unicycle feat that is modern parenting, but we are starting to figure it out.
In the midst of all this excitement at home and work, we’ve spent a good part of the last year talking with interested acquirers. Of all the would-be homes for Babble, none was more exciting on both a practical and emotional level than the Walt Disney Company. It is, bar none, the gold standard among media companies for families. It is not just the home of Mickey, Daffy, Pluto and Goofy, and the theme parks and movies that festoon our childhood memories — though it is that. It is also the many flavors of ABC, the wonders of Pixar, the comic innovations of Marvel, and the sports juggernaut that is ESPN. After six months of interacting with the talented and dedicated people at Disney, we are that much more impressed and excited about what the future holds.
Of course this decision has been a process for us. We love what we do every day, we feel that the Babble story is just beginning, and we know that selling a company is by definition a leap of faith. We needed to know how Babble would fit into another company’s portfolio of sites, what they thought of the Babble voice, and whether they would support our ambitious roadmap for development in the years to come. No company had better answers, a better understanding of what is special about Babble, and more complementary resources than Disney.
Looking forward, there are commitments that we would like to make to ourselves and the Babble community. We will make it our daily mission to stay true, connected, real, honest and interesting. We want every user to walk away informed, satisfied, enlightened, or at least tickled to some degree.
There are things we believe. We believe that parenting is hard when you have easy kids and harder still when you have normal kids. If you have a child like Grey, our beloved second born — and I know many of you do — that’s still another story. We believe that design and experience matters, that a webpage is like a room: if you’re going to spend time in it, it should be beautiful and inviting. We believe in the old-fashioned craftsmanship of great prose. We believe that the brands of individuals are ascendant, and that smart media companies are those that figure out how to partner with those individuals in ways that are genuinely symbiotic. The blogger phenomenon is not a trend, it’s the future, and Babble will always be dedicated to being the best home — and the most dynamic platform — for parents who blog.
We also believe that everything in life is in either a state of growth or decay; there is no such thing as stasis. We at Babble, working in concert with the amazing people at
Disney, are dedicated to making the next several years the most exciting years yet for the Babble community. We will now be able to innovate faster, enhance the content, the product, the technology, the interactive experience, and make Babble unequivocally the best home for parents on the web. We hope to surprise you, and if we do it right, empower you to surprise us. Thanks for all your support and feedback over the years, stay tuned.
Feet first, Rufus and Alisa