Back in 2008, Razorfish creative Brook Lundy and his friend Duncan Mitchell hatched an idea for a site that would marry cheesy stock ecards with inappropriate messages. The site, Someecards.com, was a near-instant hit, leading Lundy and Mitchell to quit their ad agency jobs to run it full time. It seems like they made a good choice: Someecards now attracts 2.7 million unique monthly visitors, according to Quantcast. Lundy took time to talk to The Feed about what’s funny online right now, the relevance of social media in general and as a new medium for humor, and the Someecards spin-off site HappyPlace.com.
The hardest that I laugh throughout the day is when we look through our Tweet Picks on HappyPlace. It’s a roundup of the funniest things we find on Twitter. Danny Zuker, he’s a writer for Modern Family, seems to continually write funny stuff. I guess it’s when people create a new way to be obnoxious. If you look on the site, there’s a post from yesterday morning: ”The best smart-ass responses to celebrities on Twitter.” This guy Eli Braden, he’s become one of the better celebrity assassins. He does stuff like looking for the stupid shit that Yoko Ono tweets and retweeting that with feedback. I don’t have a favorite Someecard. I pretty much hate them all equally as soon as they go live. The second they go live I am convinced they aren’t funny anymore. The immediate gratification thing with the Internet just kind of backfires. There’s always that “Oh shit, I would have worded that a little differently.“
Speaking of the Internet and instant gratification, how do you feel about Web culture today with social media being such a big part of it?
I don’t use social media at all. I don’t consume it personally because I spend all day using it for Someecards. I definitely like some of it. I mean if we are looking for news, we don’t go to CNN, we go to Twitter. I like to look for interesting ways that people are using social media. How can you use limited space to be funny and clever? I don’t have the energy to go read more than a paragraph anymore anyway. We do a lot of posts about Facebook and Twitter and what you can do there to be clever, whether it’s commenting on someone’s photo or hacking into someone’s account. But Facebook is overwhelming to me. I block everyone. I’d probably even block myself if I could.
Was having user-generated cards always part of the idea with Someecards? How do you find the quality of those cards compared to the ones that Someecards staff writes?
User-generated ecards started later. It started a year or year and a half into it. And then even later the editor’s picks became part of the regular selection. We still look for regular contributors through there, people who get a lot of editor’s picks. User-generated content keeps getting better. When it first started, I would describe the quality as walking into a prison — no one in charge, and jokes that were over the top and were more horrifying than clever. It seems that people have kind of learned on their own. Now it’s definitely gotten a lot easier to find funny clever stuff in there. I feel like we haven’t fully been able to tap that yet. It’s the perfect kind of crowdsourcing thing. Maybe the image isn’t perfect, but it’s done. Maybe there is something to sending out an assignment to heavy user-generated card producers.
Happyplace.com, well, we were starting to create other humor content on Someecards.com, and just to make it more streamlined we turned it into its own thing. It just made it much more expandable. I think that the problem with having that stuff on Someecards was that it was a little confusing. People would go looking for ecards and see this other stuff there. Since we created HappyPlace.com as its own site, and with the two sites then working together, the traffic has gone up 500 percent on both sites. Traffic now hovers between 8 and 9 million unique visits for both sites. It never jumped anything like that before. Having the separate sites made it an overall better experience.
Why do you think it is that most TV commercials aren’t funny?
I actually don’t know that many TV commercials anymore. I guess that would be because if something is funny, it’s going to get sent to you online, so it’s completely out of context from the media it’s in. People must be just so sick of the TV format. It’s almost like standup comedy; you have to do something astronomically funny to get a reaction. That’s why the Old Spice thing nailed it. The commercials to me were like a warm-up set to the real comedy, the larger online picture. Like what they did with people’s tweets. Taking people’s tweets and doing on-the-fly commercials, that feels exactly right to me — that’s how to entertain people. It was really relevant. I haven’t seen anything like that in a while. I usually fast-forward through commercials and don’t even pay attention.