Started by school friends Solly Solomou and Arian Kalantari in 2012 when they were still at university (Solomou was at Leeds and Kalantari at Liverpool), TheLADbible has filled the void left following the demise of lads’ mags such as Loaded in the nineties and is now followed by half of all British males aged 18 to 24.
“We were just producing funny content for the younger audience,” says co-founder Kalantari of the early days. But the duo have always seen it as a business. Following early success on Facebook they built a website and heavily promoted it through advertising networks. “We found that what we were doing really resonated with our audience,’ he adds.
It seems so. To date they’ve accumulated 23 million followers on Facebook and ladbible.com is now the 10th most-visited website in the UK according to Alexa. Since growing that community TheLADbibleGroup has gone on to build a portfolio of other brands including SPORTbible, Pretty 52, branded content agency Joyride, and licensing arm CONTENTbible, used by TV networks, brand and publishers.
That’s their core business, Kalantari tells me. They also run a number of ‘incubator channels’ — new brands they treat as startups, constantly testing and learning what works for that particular audience. These include LENSbible (Instagram-only photography content), GAMINGbible and FOODbible, all typically aimed at a youth audience.
How do they manage all this? They’ve grown the team over the past five years to just under 140 people and have offices in both Manchester and Shoreditch. Not bad considering they’re both 25 years old. Just don’t use the term millennial to describe their target audience. “I’m 25 and I behave quite differently to most 16-year-olds,” he explains.
Of the 140 employees they have a tech team of just under 30 and they’ve custom built everything from the website and submissions platform to their editorial management system. “From the off we’ve seen the importance of tech. We position our companies as a combination of tech and media,” says Kalantari.
The secret of their success seems to be a combination of good timing, listening to their audience, and an ability to carve out a niche in this new and evolving publishing space. “There’s no traditional way of doing this, we’re kind of writing the book.”
“The thing we do that traditional publishing doesn’t is look at tech and data closely with creative. We provide writers with data on topics and encourage them to get creative within that framework. Authenticity is very important to us. We listen to comments, look at the data, and feed it back to creative — it’s full circle.”
Already popular in the US, Australia and Ireland, the team’s plan this year is to further expand globally. So expect to see even more from TheLADbibleGroup.
TheLADbible is the third fastest-growing tech company in the North.
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