The LAD bible’s marketing director Mimi Turner will be speaking at Digital Media Strategies this March, discussing how the property went from a digital upstart to the UK’s 12th most popular website. For more information and to book your place, click here<<<

The majority of legacy publishers in the UK must have had a dozen or more ‘I wish I’d thought of that moments’ over the past decade. 

Many will have thought that when an upstart with a similar content strategy leaped onto a new platform before they did, or when a tiny publisher grew to enormous size as a result of social media. 

One such digital upstart is theLADbible, which Alexa ranks as the eleventh most popular website in the UK, ahead of huge publishers like the Guardian and the Daily Mail. 

In this interview, its marketing director Mimi Turner explains how the site has grown to that position, and what headwinds are affecting the larger digital publishing industry as a whole:

TheLADbible has seen significant success in growing an audience through clever use of a variety of social channels. What about your content or audience demographics do you think has catalysed that success?

We follow the flow of our audience. Our audience are digital natives – nearly two-thirds are between 13 and 25 – and we know how to create the content that fits them. Our total following across all our brands and all our social channels is around 32 million, so that is a lot of Centennials engaging with us in a lot of different spaces.

They are the first generation to have had smartphones from their teens and to use them as their prime window to the world. They are constantly evolving and refining the way they use social networks to discover, curate and connect to their worlds. We listen a lot and try to understand their changing behaviour.

We also have a window on the way audiences are changing through the amount of inbound content we are sent by our community. We get around 1500 content submissions a day – so we can see when new platforms are coming up because people use them to send us content.

Given that so many publishers are seeing huge swathes of their audiences coming solely on mobile devices, do you think a diffuse publishing strategy is going to become the norm?

Mobile will inevitably become the dominant medium for publishers, simply because it is where the audience is. Social and mobile audiences are trackable in the hundreds of millions, desktop audiences are in the millions and print audiences are now counted in the hundreds of thousands.

This is an inevitable consequence of the way that technology has opened up our frontiers. There are about 5 billion adults on the planet and about 4.5 billion mobile phones (around half are smartphones). The mobile ecosystem is now heading towards being ten times the scale of the PC industry. Publishers are caught in the painful process of adapting to a changed world and it is not easy. But there are a lot of opportunities.

Why is now the right time to be investing in long-form original content, given that TheLADbible’s success to this point has been predicated on aggregating content from elsewhere?

It’s not about a specific ‘right time.’ More that addiing original and long-form content is the next step in our evolution. Powerful video stories told in our tone will have a different voice. We understand a youth audience and the way we recognise and amplify their world will be very powerful. We’re looking forward to announcing a slate in the next few months. To get to a point where that is possible we’ve had to do a lot of work.

We’ve spent some time building a really strong video team who are amazing storytellers. We’ve also built a studio and production facilities in Manchester. There’s a lot of tech work and business evolution which has to preceed this step as well, for example, we have also launched a rights management business, The CONTENTbible, which houses all our acquired, owned, licensed and syndicated rights.

What are your plans for distributing this content? Will it be a extension of your existing strategy or is there likely to be a re-examination of your publishing strategy? Will there be more of a central hub for this content, for instance?

We’re in the process of understanding this area. For us, there’s no blueprint that we are following. There’s no map that we can follow which shows the right path. We are literally learning and testing, testing and learning. Our aim is to develop the best understanding of our audience and see how they want to come to the content and what formats work best with them. We are reluctant to be prescriptive – when it comes to our audience we are very much guided by their choices.

We spoke about the issues surrounding discoverability of content given the huge amounts of video etc. that gets uploaded every minute. What advantages do you have in that regard, other than the brand recognition you already have?

Size and scale are the differentiators when it comes to discovery. You need a big following. And, you have to be strong on a breadth of different platforms – because your audience will be not be on just one.

We have a very large audience and we tell them stories that they want to tell their friends. Therefore, our stories surface well, even in the feeds of people who don’t follow the brand. The smaller you are, the less that happens. This is the law of double jeopardy that Professor Byron Sharp talks about in How Brands Grow: small brands get shared less often and are viewed less frequently.

The brand trust is also a big factor. It is the reason someone will stop scrolling to look at a story. Last week, for example, across all our brands we had 163 million post clicks. That’s 163 million individual decisions to stop the feed and look at our content. That’s a pretty healthy measure.

What headwinds do you think you’re likely to face in the coming years as you attempt to both expand your reach and deepen engagement with the existing audience?

In my view, the technology that evolves in the coming years will be about amplifying the human experience. Over time we’ll see a proliferation of social platforms that serve specific emotional and practical needs.

Our job is to be agile and to evolve with that. If we do that, we will create opportunities as we go. The pace of change is faster than it has ever been, and it will only get faster.

Social and mobile connectivity is a profound tectonic force – social media is the sound of the world speaking for itself. What we are living through is a democratization of conversation for the first time in the human record. I don’t think we have even begun to understand the power of that yet.

The LAD bible’s marketing director Mimi Turner will be speaking at Digital Media Strategies this March, discussing how the property went from a digital upstart to the UK’s 12th most popular website. For more information and to book your place, click here<<<