Changes in the algorithms of Facebook can become a nightmare for publishers – another innovation is capable of breaking them in a day. Especially if a significant part of the traffic comes from the social network. However, Bored Panda is not looking for ways to distance itself from Facebook and depend less on it. On the contrary, it is moving closer, and this pays off.
The history of the Lithuanian start-up, which has learned to survive in today’s Facebook-dependent world.
Perhaps you do not know much about Bored Panda, but if you have a Facebook account, their posts just flickered in your stream. It could be “10+ photos before and after that prove that men are prettier than birds” or “41 cases when drivers of Uber caught customers by surprise”. Or you watched one of these short videos with the title “Shh, do not wake them” with sleeping seals, dogs, and hamsters.
Such are the unflattering and senseless publications that made Bored Panda one of the most irresistible temptations on Facebook. Their page has collected 30 million likes, cheers, comments and reactions in just the last month, ahead of BuzzFeed, CNN and The New York Times. In October, 116 million users entered the site.
All this the company did without attracting third-party investments, unlike digital publishers like BuzzFeed and Vice, which collected hundreds of millions of dollars. To date, Bored Panda employs slightly more than 40 people, and low operating costs, given the huge popularity, are beneficial to the business. According to the founder of Bored Panda, Tomas Banisauskas, this year the company expects $ 20-30 million in revenue, mainly from advertising, which is posted on the site.
Factors of success
Approximately 90% of all traffic comes from Facebook, making the social network the key to Bored Panda’s success. “They help us a lot,” says Banisauskas, who is 31 years old.
Bored Panda appeared in 2009 as a side project of Banisauskas. At that time a freelance photographer and a student at Vilnius University, was specializing in business administration. To create the project, Tomas was inspired by Internet-creatives like Million Dollar Homepage, when an enterprising guy earned a million-selling pixel on the site. The Lithuanian decided to create a website that would “fight boredom through art and good stories.”
In fact, Bored Panda collects user content from various sources. It includes Reddit, Instagram, Twitter, etc. It “rebates” them in a suitable format, adding a bright title, and sells on a single platform. Most of the content Bored Panda receives for free from photographers and “free artists”. They are not averse to appearing on the Facebook page with millions of covers. And yes, the company asks for permission to publish.
The publisher adheres to the thematic rule: only art, creativity, and jokes. No politics. Thus, Bored Panda built a “positive media empire”. Another important rule of Bored Panda is “quality, not quantity”. In October, only 519 posts (about 16 per day) appeared on the site, which is very much compared to CNN (5 595 per month) or Fox News (51 919).
Of course, things did not immediately go so well. Bored Panda relied for a long time on StumbleUpon, a popular link aggregator – it was he who gave the site most of the traffic. But in 2010 StumbleUpon sharply reduced the presence of Bored Panda and offered to purchase advertising. This experience gave Banisauskas to understand that “the only way to survive in this industry is to build long-term value through loyal subscribers”.
The next few years were difficult. In 2013 in Bored Panda began to notice the growth of views from a new source. From Facebook. Users of the social network fell in love with the positive content of the site. In just a year its attendance grew tenfold. Soon Bored Panda became almost entirely Facebook-dependent.
However, unlike competitors who were looking for ways not to depend on Facebook, Bored Panda went in the opposite direction and decided to get even closer. The company made several Facebook branches. It turned into separate brands: for example, art pages or pages with stories about pets. Moreover, they created Crafty Panda, which is focused entirely on DIY projects. For them, they began to create original content, and recently launched in the office video studio for their cutting.
Risks of Bored Panda strategy
However, such dependence carries risks. For example, a couple of months ago, Facebook tested a new ribbon design. As part of the test, Facebook extracted posts from brands, public figures, and publishers such as Bored Panda. Facebook placed them in a separate tape called Explore Feed. The existence of which very few people knew. This change caused panic among the content companies: some of them recorded a sharp traffic crash in one night. They were frightened for their future. Later Facebook turned off the experiment. However, this case showed how shaky the position of the company, which relies entirely on the social network, can be.
Banisauskas understands this well. Moreover, given that almost half of Bored Panda’s audience are Americans, he worries that the site may fall victim to the purges of “fakes” that the social network initiated after Russian campaigns during the presidential election in the United States. “We have nothing to do with this problem, but we could suffer collateral damage,” he says.
Last summer Banisauskas flew to New York to meet with other major publishers who focus on Facebook. Today they all exist with the tacit consent of the social network, knowing that by a wave of a finger they can merely take and disappear from there.
But while Bored Panda is doing well. Its founder is confident, as well as the content that he distributes: “Everyone experiences and does the right thing. But I believe that everything will be fine.”