TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY
By Patricia Kitchen
Yes, Manhasset resident Joe Speiser’s media startup — founded last August with no business plan — turned a profit in the first month, he says, with revenue now in the eight digits.
Yes, it received 65 million unique views worldwide from April 21 to May 20, 53 million of them coming via mobile, according to advertising and audience measurement site Quantcast.
But of real note is that it’s been done with no eyeball-enticing snark, no celebrity gossip, no riveting news of devastating events, such as train crashes and earthquakes.
As “the antithesis of the nightly news,” the site LittleThings.com “is pumping happiness into the world,” said Speiser, 36, co-founder with Alex Zhardanovsky.
Antithesis of bad news
Its content — which is curated from the web and created in-house — focuses primarily on the uplifting, the encouraging, the useful, while also pumping up viewers’ curiosity with cliffhanger headlines.
Examples from last week: “They Were Separated As Babies. 30 Years Later? They Beat Unthinkable Odds” and “Wait Until You Hear These Dachshund Puppies Respond To The ‘Law & Order’ Theme . . . Adorable!”
Were the story you’re now reading posted on the site, its headline might be: “Long Island Native Grows Media Startup from 0 To 65 Million. His Strategy? Unbelievable!”
The Manhattan-based site, along with the likes of Upworthy, GoodNewsNetwork and BuzzFeed, helps counterbalance increased access to minute-by-minute news that reflects the harsh realities from around the world, said Carrie Kerpen, chief executive of Likeable Media, a Manhattan-based marketing agency.
While broadening people’s perspectives, that 24/7 exposure through social media to local, national and global miseries can also “be a little depressing,” says Kerpen, of Port Washington. That’s created an appetite for more optimistic content to share and consume. Plus, “people love to have a happy cry on social media,” she said. “They love to feel touched.”
Women a key demographic
The approach seems to be working, as Quantcast’s top sites ranking by U.S. visitors, as of last week, put LittleThings at No. 25, just after About.com and LinkedIn and ahead of WordPress and Blogger. As for mobile, LittleThings places at No. 5 on a U.S. visitor ranking of sites that participate in Quantcast’s measurement program — with BuzzFeed, Answers, Yelp and Diply in the lead.
The majority of visitors, both in the United States and globally, are women over 40, Speiser says.
LittleThings is “courting” advertisers in apparel, automotive and consumer packaged goods, he said, with Ford, Campbell’s, Carnival, Macy’s, Clorox and Jaguar among brands that have appeared recently on the site.
LittleThings grew out of a feel-good blog on PetFlow.com, an e-commerce site Speiser co-founded four years ago. Based on the blog’s popularity, and especially the team’s passion for digital content, the blog was spun off and launched as a stand-alone media startup.
An inviting workplace
A staff of 35 — writers, editors, designers, management types, with some hailing from Plainview, Great Neck, Long Beach and Stony Brook — work from a high-ceilinged, window-lined office near Herald Square that features foosball and Ping-Pong tables; manicures and massages; unlimited snacks, fruit and organic coffee, and catered lunches on Friday. Small dogs are also welcome.
A graduate of Columbia University with an international relations degree, Speiser said he was motivated to take the entrepreneurial route by his father, who runs a picture frame molding business in Hauppauge.
LittleThings is in hiring mode, close to bringing onboard a chief operating officer, Speiser says. As a business reaches a certain size, he says, there’s a need for “more process and structure.”
But that corporate governance role is “not fun for me,” he said. “It’s not what I’m good at.”