NPR's Thomas goes to Etsy; Surprise — it's not a conspiracy

Recently I’ve told people I know, especially folks I meet via Twitter, that this here blog is really kind of an “inside baseball” thing for public media purveyors or supporters. It’s not a general interest kind of thing. Well, for this post, I’m going to kick up the inside baseball factor a notch…

In the wake of the Ken Stern departure from NPR, the rumblings in D.C. were audible all the way out here in Anchorage (it helps if you have a former NPR staffer working in the next office). Stations across the country were in a tizzy for a few days trying to read the tea leaves — what did it all mean?

Then a few weeks later we heard about the departure of Maria Thomas, NPR’s digital media guru. As one of the chief architects of NPR’s many digital initiatives, her exit fueled speculation that the elimination of Stern was a rebuke of online activities at the company and Thomas left because her days were numbered.

At least that’s the speculation I heard. But I didn’t believe it.

Thomas came to NPR with solid online / e-commerce experience. She did great work at NPR. But I suspected she basically had achieved all she could in a company that, for all its good intentions, cannot move too terribly quickly, given the distributed nature of its goals and relationships. Plus, her work would have gotten her continued attention in web circles. She was likely hit with a job offers repeatedly. 

Today venture capitalist (and uber-blogger) Fred Wilson announced Thomas’ installation as COO of the unique online retailer Etsy.com. While we knew the Etsy part of the story weeks ago, I think the warm welcome she’s being offered tells the real story — that hiring Thomas was a coup for Union Square Ventures and Etsy, not a housecleaning for NPR.

Be sure to check out the introductory video — great stuff. And note what Thomas says when asked why she likes Etsy: “I love that Etsy means connecting with something authentic.” Spoken like the new media veteran she is.

Of course, I could be wrong. Hit me in the comments if I’m missing anything.