What Can We Learn From The Evolution of TheLADBible?

Written by Phil Birss: Group CEO.
· 4 minute read

Back in 2012, The LADBible was born. In its infancy, its content consisted mostly of sports stories, women in bikinis and drunken banter. This was a place for horrific sporting injuries, photos of half naked women on ‘Bumday Mondays’ (seriously) and tales of piss-drinking rugby initiations gone wrong.

Many of the people who made up its original audience have now graduated, found jobs and created LinkedIn profiles. And as these young men have grown into suit-wearing professionals and even devoted family men, The LADBible has evolved too. It’s by no means evangelical, but having become the go-to news resource for many and a curator of popular online trends, there’s a little more to it now than just crude banter and casual sexism. To channel a popular Daily Mail phrase, The LADBible is ‘all grown up’.

Toeing the fine line between wreaking havoc & setting a good example

In fact, I’d even go as far as patting its team on the back for, dare I say it, setting a good example. Don’t judge me. From challenging instances of sexism to applauding people for coming out as transgender, its content creators are seemingly unafraid to share stories that challenge the lad culture status quo. With traditional lads mags such as FHM, Nuts, Zoo and Loaded buckling in recent years, perhaps The LADBible Group’s willingness to evolve and even question its original audience is to thank for its success.

Despite its early reputation for wreaking havoc and causing offence at every opportunity, the team aren’t too proud to admit when they’ve crossed a line. When it came under fire earlier this year for mocking Wentworth Miller’s weight gain – triggered by depression –  it promptly apologised and shared a list of mental health charities on Facebook. Although the apology was celebrated by many, it did face some criticism from long term fans for ‘selling out’ and pandering to ‘social justice warriors’.

Nevertheless, the growth of the group’s following suggests CEO Alexander ‘Solly’ Solomou and his team are unlikely to have any regrets. At the time of writing, The LADBible has 26 million followers across all social networks and each article is shared 6,000 times on average. Its website is the 13th most visited in the UK and is the second most-visited website in Britain after the BBC.

When asked by The Guardian whether he regrets the laddish and often offensive content from The LADBible‘s early days, Solomou said: “I wouldn’t say I regret it. It was a learning curve, and I’m glad we’ve ended up where we are. We are strong enough now and big enough to influence what people think about ‘lad’. That old-fashioned idea is not something that we believe in. In my eyes, the lad is someone who spots a grandma crossing the road with heavy shopping, someone with manners, who is polite, who can be a hero.”

Whether you can envision LADBible readers helping the elderly across the road or not, the community has certainly come a long way, morphing into a multi-platform enterprise boasting a 70-strong team of marketers, content creators and PR experts.

In 2015, former journalist Mimi Turner was brought onto the team as the first ever marketing director and earlier this year, Adam Clyne, the former European digital chief of PR group Weber Shandwick was also welcomed.

In an interview with The Drum, Turner said: “Our ability to do things has changed, all of the major channels we use, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat have gone through two or three evolutions; significant, big changes. Our job is to understand and constantly evolve with those platforms.”

The importance of being on your toes in business

Those who remember it in its infancy may be reluctant to give so much credit, but we can learn a lot from its development and success. I hate using the word ‘agile’ in terms of business but The LADBible really proves just how crucial agility (yuck) is. Whether you’re a business, marketer or content creator, it’s important to constantly be on your toes and willing to change at a moment’s notice.

What has worked in the past won’t necessarily work in the present and there’s even more uncertainty in the future. Technology and audiences are evolving faster than a Pidgey on Pokemon Go and so a willingness to change and try new things is vital.

It’s important to listen to your audience while also knowing when not to listen to them. If The LADBible listened to every comment from a disgruntled misogynist complaining about SJWs, it would probably end up with a similar fate to the likes of Nuts and Zoo.

Instead of focusing on the opinions of those that shout the loudest, its marketing team seem to be letting data and social stats determine its direction. Last month the team shared a Facebook Live video of ice lollies melting in the sun. More than 4 million people watched it, presumably placing bets with their mates over which one would survive the longest. While some Facebook pages are as boring as watching paint dry, these guys have got us watching ice cream melt and who’d have thought it’d be so entertaining? It would be foolish to listen solely to the naysayers who want the platform to return to its old ways.

The fact that The LADBible has changed so drastically should also be reassuring to any businesses that fear they’ve been pigeon holed into a particular category. Of course, although many do still associate The LADBible‘s Facebook page with harmful lad culture, follower data suggests Solomou’s creation appeals to a much larger audience than simply drunk teenage boys. Mimi Turner claims half of all British men aged 18-30 along with 20% of women follow the page. The company’s progression is proof that it’s never too late to change perceptions of your brand.