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2.3 Billion Pageviews & 9 Years of Customer Focus - Evan Britton | Famous Birthdays

Listen Up! IH - Episode 6


👆 That's Evan Britton, founder of FamousBirthdays.com - an American website dedicated to cataloging the birthdays of famous people and compiling other facts about them.

Famous Birthdays, has 30 million users who perform 900,000 searches a day on their platform.

That's more than 600 searches every minute. Insane! The power of focus on a niche.

Evan Britton appeared on the Indie Hackers podcast back in January this year.

Courtland Allen talked to him about his maniacal focus on the user, slow but healthy growth, and some ideas for Indie Hackers to go into.

Lessons from the podcast👇


Famous Birthdays - The Celebrities Platform

FamousBirthdays.com is a simple way to quickly learn about celebrities, social stars, movies, TV shows, bands, in a concise, yet informative format.

In the last 9 years its organically grown to over 30 million users.

People have always been obsessed with celebrity culture and today, in the age of the creator economy, there can be thousands of celebrities on various platforms with hundreds of thousands of fans each.

That's where Famous Birthdays has found it's path to growth.

Right now, it has 200,000 celebrities listed on the platform. With a short bio for each one of them - like an abridged version of a Wikipedia article.

And it's users can't stop reading about them.

According to Evan, FamousBirthdays leverages 2 major trends of the last 5 years like no other platform:

  1. Having a mobile first presence.
  2. Rise of the digital stars i.e IG, YouTube, TV series stars which don't get covered by IMDB or Wikipedia.

It's like a mobile first Wikipedia for Digital-First celebrities.

Digital first celebs are mostly social media stars with very niche following.

Back in 2014, they were getting Vine stars on their platform. Today they are getting TikTok stars! (like Bryce Hall & Nessa Barret)

And how do they add new celebs?

Through their internal missed searches.

Internal Search - The North Star

FamousBirthdays gets about 90,000 searches a day. Around 10% of those 90,000 are missed searches i.e people searching for celeb names and not finding them on the platform.

Even and his team of 25 view these as potential new additions to their ever growing list of celebrities.

They manually review and add new stars everyday from this process.

Over the years Evan has invested in sophisticated proprietary technology to better analyze the search queries on the platform.

So if you search "Gemini" you get all stars who have the sun sign Gemini.

If you search "Twitch" then you get all Twitch influencers on the platform.

And if you search "26th April" you will get all celebs with their birthdays on 26th April.

The Boost

FamousBirthdays has a "Boost" functionality on every profile on the platform. Users can click on a pink button and boost someone they like, which impacts their score in the ranking algorithm.

Social Media stars have been known to ask their fans to Boost them on the platform to increase their ranking.

That's a growth hack built right into the core product.

Monetization

Last year, FamousBirthdays had more than 2.3 Billion Pageviews.

That's that largest organic traffic for any site outside of the major social networks.

The best way to monetize that kind of traffic is through ads. And they do it through programmatic ads.

Last year they had more than 10 Billion Ad impressions. That's HUGE!

With more than 10 ad networks bidding on the platform to show ads, FamousBirthdays is bound to get the best deal for their traffic. (Ad networks like Google Ad sense, Ezoic, Mediavine etc.)

Extreme Focus

Famous birthdays doesn't have user accounts.

People don't signup to use it.

Evan can probably make some more money if he built that functionality and added some premium features or displayed more contextual ads.

But he doesn't want to stray out of his "lane".

He wants more of what he already has, just better.

So they are now translating the site into multiple languages - Spanish, Portuguese, and German - in order to help users get the information about celebrities they care about.

Slow Initial Growth

FamousBirthdays hasn't seen hockey stick growth.

It has grown at a rate of 3% year on year for the last 9 years.

The initial years were tough. Evan even got laughed at, at VidCon 2014 for his product.

But he believed in his vision, focused on his users and did everything he could to build a great experience for them.

Every time they made a bit of money he reinvested it back in the product. That meant making the tech better, hiring new people, and doubling down on user experience.

They even added pets & bands to their roster because people were searching for them!

You can find pets profiles for famous pets like Grumpy Cat & Dug, the pug

The top band on the platform is BTS

Ideas for Indie Hackers

Courtland and Evan brainstormed a few similar ideas for Indie Hackers to try out.

  1. A Yelp like platform but for Food Trucks;
  2. A publication that only wrote about what's happening in the comments section on social media;
  3. A news site around Cameo. Cameo is this cool platform where semi-famous celebs do video messages for their fans. Evan suggests a content site that talks about what's happening on Cameo, the community, the stats, funny stories, stuff like that.

Advice for Indie Hackers

Final words of Advice for Indie Hackers from Evan Britton👇

  1. Do only one thing. Be very specific on what you want to build and stick to that.
  2. It won't be easy. So you will need a lot of passion and commitment to get through the initial years. It will take time, blood, sweat and tears. Be prepared for that.
  3. Focus on your niche. Do one thing but do it well, for everything else don't hesitate to use third-party tools. Don't reinvent the wheel to build something that's not part of your core product.
  4. Invest in proprietary technology right from the beginning. If a piece of tech can make your core product better build it inhouse and leverage for the long term.

Thank You for Reading🙏

Listen to the complete episode on the IndieHackers podcast.

Every week, I listen to the best podcasts around Indie-Hacking and share the most actionable and inspiring tips from some awesome conversations.

Subscribe to Listen Up! IH and get them directly in your inbox👇

https://www.indiehackers.com/series/listen-up-ih

ICYMI: Last Week I wrote about Li Jin - The patron saint of the passion economy.

Thanks to Seth King for editing this post.

Cheers,
Ayush

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