The New Parenting Media: Interview with’s Editor-In-Chief, Ada Calhoun

Intervew with Ada CalhounEditor’s note: The driving force behind the founding of The Father Life was the lack of media available for today’s dads. But it isn’t just dads that have been left out; much of what is available as media for both moms and dads is from established names that many new parents feel are out-of-touch with generations X, Y, and beyond. Babble is one of those publications that, like The Father Life, have come into existence to fill that void. Recently, Ben Murphy, our CEO, interviewed the Babble editor-in-chief, Ada Calhoun.
Intervew with Ada Calhoun

Ben Murphy: Babble seems to be the first major parenting site aimed at this new breed/generation of parents, myself being one of them. Were the founders of Babble seeing a void out there in the market that they thought they could fill? What’s the back-story on how this all got started?

Ada Calhoun: Yes! Last year, we at Nerve found ourselves thinking about parenting stuff a lot. Babble‘s co-publishers, who are also my bosses at Nerve, Rufus and Alisa, had a young son. Our video editor Sam’s wife was pregnant. I was pregnant. And we knew a lot of long-time Nerve writers and readers had young children. We were thinking, “Where is the magazine for all of us?” We were reading, like, Baby Center and What to Expect… and all that stuff and getting really depressed. There was so much fear mongering and sentimentalizing. And everything seemed geared to women exclusively, which none of us liked, as the fathers we knew were so involved. The resource we kept looking for–something that would be honest about the experience but also enthusiastic–didn’t exist. So we created it. And the response has been enormous. Apparently, we weren’t alone!

BM: Ok, so Nerve isn’t exactly children’s material. How does one go from a culture + porn site to… a parenting site? Seems like a strange transition.

AC: Of course, it’s a really funny spin-off, because in one sense, the two subjects couldn’t be more different, and on the other, sex and babies do have a very significant connection! I think in the ’90s, no one was talking honestly about sex, so the creation of Nerve was revolutionary. And now, parenting news is all over the place, but very few people are talking honestly about it, so Babble was necessary. They have very similar missions, really: telling the truth about and pointing out the humor in something that’s taboo.

BM: What’s the driving attitude and vision behind Babble?

AC: We try to go higher and lower than every other parenting magazine: smart, funny, personal essays (like about a woman whose son has autism wanting to know if she should tell a stranger that her son probably has it too), and hard-hitting reported pieces (like on the new trend toward opting-out of routine vaccination, which is so dangerous) on the one hand, and silly product reviews (via our products blog) and celebrity gossip (via our celebrity baby blog) on the other.

BM: How did you come on board with Babble?

AC: I was a senior editor at Nerve and pregnant, so when we started planning the magazine, it was a natural fit. The original launch date for Babble was my August due date, which in retrospect seems sort of like a sick joke. Luckily, we kept adding new features and making Babble bigger and bigger, so the launch date kept getting pushed back. It ultimately launched in December.

BM: Babble will hit its 1st anniversary in December. What have you guys learned so far from this experience? Where is Babble headed?

AC: Well, the first thing is just what you said: there are a lot of new parents out there who really want to talk about parenting issues in a real way. So it’s been an amazing success. We’re due to be profitable this fall, which I’m told is sort of amazing for a new online enterprise. Our readership has been growing so fast. It’s now at 350,000 unique visitors a month and keeps climbing. One big surprise for me has been hearing anecdotally from a lot of non-parents that they read Babble, and not just our “Notes from a Non-Breeder” column.

BM: How is parenting changing? Or is it? Maybe it’s a different version of the same thing?

AC: Gosh, I don’t know really, because I’ve only been doing it for a year myself! But I do think a lot of us in Generation X or Y are paying a lot of attention to being parents and trying really hard to reconcile being parents with various new trends–needing two incomes, partners sharing childcare duties, deciding to keep living in cities rather than moving to the suburbs. There’s so much more information now than ever before. You can search for “pacifier” on the internet and get five zillion articles about how pacifiers are terrible or fantastic and will ruin your kid’s teeth or prevent SIDS. It can make a person crazy. So I think Babble‘s around to be both a practical resource (the “pacifier” page in our Health & Development section has a list of the various opinions presented on a spectrum) and a reality-check. We try to maintain a sense of humor and to remind each other, c’mon, it’s just a pacifier.



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