Can LadBible Make It In America?
Future News 148
LadBible was a scrappy media upstart with a growing presence on Facebook just over a decade ago. A loyal following of UK university students gave it some initial popularity as they lapped up its male-orientated offerings.
Alexander “Solly” Solomou, then a student at The University of Leeds, had launched the ‘fast media’ publisher in 2012.
Alongside university friend Arian Kalantari, who is now the company’s Chief Operating Officer, Solly went on to expand LadBible across multiple social media platforms, including Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok.
The duo would also eventually acquire and create 11 digital brands. SPORTbible, UNILAD and GAMINGbible are just some examples. The acquisition of the ‘Go Animals' Facebook page and its 6.8m followers in May last year is another.
After building up a business that reached almost two thirds of 18 to 34-year-olds in the UK alone, LadBible went public in 2021 when it floated on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market.
The IPO netted the co-founders a cool £53m/$63.7m as investors backed their vision to further cement LadBible’s position in the ‘youth audience’ market through M&A deals, increased audience monetisation and geographic expansion.
For Solly, the CEO of LBG Media PLC, who holds a 41% shareholding in the company, the United States is a key territory for growth away from the business’ existing core market geographies of the UK, Australia and Ireland.
The Manchester-headquartered publisher has subsequently decided to set-up shop in New York with a team of “roughly 10 people”, including content creators and relationship managers.
They were recruited in the second half of last year and the US team is expected to be operational in early 2023. They will be tasked with driving growth in direct revenues (content marketing services) for the business.
“With our new team in the United States, we will continue to increase engagement and followers and begin to monetise the market. We aim to grow these communities, by continuing to create and publish relevant digital content, further building brand awareness levels and increasing follower numbers,” the company said at its half-year results in September.
Success in America will be no mean feat. The ‘youth publishers’ of old, namely BuzzFeed and Vice, are experiencing tough times.
BuzzFeed is reportedly cutting 12% of its workforce and has seen its share price languish around $2 recently after going public in December 2021 at $10 per share.
Vice, meanwhile, is still seeking a buyer. Existing investor Fortress Investment Group has apparently had to step-in with $30m worth debt financing for the company.
Elsewhere, LadBible could face stiff competition from insurgent media brands such as BarstoolSports, which seeks to covet the US college audience across a plethora of sports and betting brands.
As gambling liberalisation swept across the States, casino operator Penn Entertainment took a stake in Barstool and later acquired the business outright.
Other notable youth media brands include FaZeClan, the e-sports and entertainment collective which went public on NASDAQ last year, and YouTube publishers NelkBoys, who are behind the Full Send and Happy Dad brands.
Axel Springer-owned Insider (formerly Business Insider) has also seen renewed success on social media thanks, in part, to its Insider Food brand and ‘Food Wars’ series.
The US has a hyper-competitive media market – one which LadBible’s shareholders will find out more about in April (going off last year’s results date) when the company is expected to publish its full-year results and update on its growth strategy.
In the meantime, LadBible most recently posted a trading statement in December, flagging that full-year revenues would increase to £63m/$75.75m (15.7% up on last year’s £54.5m) and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortisation would be at £16m.
Broker Zeus described the announcement as a “positive outlook”, as shares of the company eventually rose from 68p to the 114.9p mark they are at today on the back of the news.
This share price gives LadBible a market capitalisation of £237m/$284m amid a challenging macroeconomic environment for the media.
Going forward, Zeus expects profits (before tax) at the company to grow to more than £17m for the full-year 2023. We will, however, have to wait and see if LadBible can successfully break into the American market.
▶️ The Big Red Button Has A New Boss
Massive news dropped overnight from YouTube. Long-time CEO Susan Wojcicki is stepping down after nine years in the role. Neal Mohan, the company’s current Chief Product Officer, will take on the top job.
Wojcicki has been at Google (now Alphabet) for a quarter of a century, joining the then start-up in 1998 and becoming the business’ first marketing manager in 1999.
The Polish-American businesswoman was appointed CEO of YouTube in February 2014. She has since transformed it into one of Alphabet’s core products, generating revenues of more than $29bn per year.
Wojcicki has promised to help with the leadership transition and will later take on an advisory role with Google and Alphabet.
“I’ve decided to step back from my role as the head of YouTube and start a new chapter focused on my family, health and personal projects I’m passionate about,” she told YouTube staffers.
📺 Media and Tech Questions I’m Thinking About
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With the Peltz-Disney shareholder dispute over, what major activist battle will emerge next?
Operation Southside: Inside the UK media’s plan to reconcile with Labour
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🎙️ Podcasts I’m Listening To
The BBC’s Media Show focuses on GB News
Recode Media asks whether tech is in trouble
Longform speaks to Jonah Weiner of The New York Times Magazine
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