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Minute Media monetises fans

B2C digital. The eight-year-old Minute Media (founded in Tel Aviv but based in London) has acquired The Big Lead sports, media and pop culture website, which has some 2m monthly uniques. US news company Gannett had owned the lossmaking site for seven years. The deal, for an undisclosed price, highlights the rapid growth of Minute Media whose portfolio comprises: global football (soccer) site 90min; 12Up for US sports; and DBLtap for e-sports. It’s a “global digital sports media company powered by socially-driven content by the fans and for the fans”, who are able to create, publish, share and distribute content to millions of other fans around the world. After a 2018 funding round that brought total investments to $77m since 2011, Minute acquired trivia-focused digital media brand Mental Floss in September, from the estate of the late British publisher Felix Dennis. Asaf Peled, CEO and co-founder, says:“Our technology-first approach has allowed us to scale our owned-and-operated brands, and we’re implementing that same approach for the digital platforms that we acquire. The Big Lead is the perfect complement to our current portfolio and a strategic step in Minute Media’s evolution as we look to power more brands utilising our proprietary technology.” The company’s existing three sites have an aggregate 110m monthly uniques (70% from 90min) in 12 languages, and revenue that has increased from zero to $40m in just three years. Peled’s open tech platform enables avid sports fans to create large amounts of “authentic” content and, at the same time, allows mainstream publishers to integrate their own services with the Minute Media sites and vice versa. He says: “If you give sports fans the technology, they create the best content – and mostly for free.” Some 40% of Minute’s 200-person team are engineers. The sites have more than 5,000 contributors said variously to be submitting 500,000 items every year. But – and this is key – the content is heavily curated and only 30% of all contributed copy is actually published. Contributors range from would-be journalists simply to fans who might, in the past, have put the content on their own blogs. All contributors get paid, partly based on traffic. The essence of the sites, especially 90min which is already one of the world’s largest and fastest growing football sites, is that they are targeting a young, smartphone audience with services that are: snackable, short, viral, scalable and have lots of video. Peled says:“We have over 1,500 influencer communities integrating with our platform. One example is a group of Real Madrid fans in Vietnam. They will take pieces of our content and share them among their community, driving traffic to the relevant part of our site. It’s essentially a B2B2C model that is driving a lot of our traffic.” The company has publisher deals with the likes of Sports Illustrated, ProSieben, MSN, Yahoo, and USA Today, which pay to use Minute Media content on their own sites. To emphasise its strategic priorities (“The technology came first, and the media came second”), it started to sell advertising only in 2016. Last year’s $40m revenue is forecast to double again in 2019, so the business is now thought to be soundly profitable. Revenue is derived almost equally from three sources: direct sales of advertising and content marketing; programmatic ads; and platform revenues from those media partners. Peled’s assertion that this is a low-cost model by comparison with almost any other sports platform and that reader-users generate the most authentic content should strike a chord with media companies in sectors far away from millennial sport fans. Why wouldn’t this strategy work equally well for business people in individual B2B sectors and in specialist hobby and enthusiast markets? (Jeremy Clarkson’s UK-based DriveTribe does have similarities). Minute Media’s easy-to-use and powerful content platform has allowed it to grow globally, from a single location into a number of localised places. That’s what makes this exciting company one to replicate wherever readers are the real experts. Which, when you think about it, is almost everywhere.

Minute Media

Jim Murray Jones, CMO, tells the DriveTribe story at Digital Media Strategies 2019 on 2-3 April in London.