Building a Celebrity Media Company to Thirty Million Users

By Bruce Harpham Monday, March 1, 2021

Photographers taking pictures of a celebrity.

Famous Birthdays has built a successful media company based on celebrities. Run by Evan Britton, the website serves billions of page views per year. “I saw that Wikipedia and IMDB were built for desktop, so that created an opportunity to create a mobile-friendly website,” Britton explained in an interview with Indie Hackers.

How Famous Birthdays Works as a Business

With thirty million unique visitors per month, Famous Birthdays serves its content through its website and mobile apps. “We have about twenty-five people on the platform. We don’t have anybody on the team selling to advertisers. We could monetize a lot more,” Britton told Indie Hackers.

The Internet business earns revenue with programmatic advertising. That means advertising is automatically fulfilled through an online auction process rather than calling on an individual business to sell advertising. The website supports Google display advertising and other providers. Serving programmatic advertising is a big business. In 2018, the global programmatic advertising market was worth more than $2 billion.

Famous Birthdays Approach to Celebrity Content

Unlike movie and TV databases like IMDB, Famous Birthdays does not aim to provide comprehensive information such as every movie a celebrity has appeared in. Instead, the celebrity-focused company focuses on a small number of key facts on approximately 200,000 celebrities. For example, the Justin Bieber profile offers a few paragraphs of information, including the first album, before him, trivia, and family life. The project also links to other celebrities named Justin or who share his birthday of March 1.

Famous Birthdays vs. IMDB — The Celebrity Media Company Model

Famous Birthdays is also different from IMDB in terms of business model. Famous Birthdays earns revenue exclusively through advertising. In contrast, IMDB offers a paid membership plan starting at $19.99 per month. The movie and TV database also generates Amazon commission revenue because users can click to buy DVDs and other media directly from the website. In 1998, Amazon bought IMDB, years before it launched its video streaming service.

Wikipedia for Generation Z

Celebrity news is a well-established niche in entertainment with established websites like People.com. While People.com has an estimated 84 million monthly visitors, according to SimilarWeb, Famous Birthdays has about thirty million monthly visitors. The birthday-themed content company has an edge in new, younger celebrities such as YouTubers and Netflix stars.

Famous Birthdays uses a different approach to detect new celebrities. With approximately 500,000 internal searches per month, the celebrity media company has plenty of search volume to analyze. The media company aims to become “the Wikipedia for Generation Z.” The business analyzes searches on its websites to discover new celebrities like Vine stars such as Cameron Dallas and newer TikTok influencers like Dixie D'Amelio. Vine was a social network that shut down in 2017 and later returned as Byte.

According to the Pew Center, Generation Z are people born between 1997 and 2012, defined by "always-on" connectivity with mobile devices. Business Insider estimates that there are over 82 million people in the Generation Z demographic in the US, making them slightly larger than the Millennial generation of 80 million. As a celebrity news media company with a strong focus on Generation Z celebrity content, Famous Birthdays has plenty of room to grow.

About the Author


Headshot of Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is an author and marketing consultant based in Canada. His first book, "Project Managers At Work," shared real-world success lessons from NASA, Google, and other organizations. His articles have been published in CIO.com, InfoWorld, Canadian Business, and other organizations. Visit BruceHarpham.com for articles, interviews with tech leaders, and updates on future books.

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