As it is MagicFreebies 20th Birthday we decided to interview Tom Bryant, CEO of MagicFreebies to find out how his company will be celebrating and their greatest achievements from the site in the last 20 years. Find out more below.
- Being the CEO of MagicFreebies what does your role involve?
I still have a pretty hands on role with MagicFreebies. It’s only one of the sites in the portfolio but I see it as my baby. It was my first website and one that I started when I was 11. I oversee all the content that goes on the site and make sure it all fits within our brand guidelines. We only want the best free stuff on there. With the help of our COO Julian I plan the tech improvements and timeline them. We also check the performance of all our traffic suppliers and try and reach out to new ones.
- Tell me about your typical working day and what it involves?
No day is ever the same which does make the job really interesting. Generally when I get in I check with all the teams that everything is going smoothly. I’ll usually compile all the previous day’s accounts and check for any potential mistakes we could have made on the sites. Then I’ll help with the business development team and see if there’s any new avenues for us to work with potential clients. Nowadays I spend a lot of my time developing newer sites and ventures but I’ll always be putting the word of MagicFreebies out there.
- How did you get started in the digital industry?
As I say, I was really young when I started. I remember when my parents first got the Internet and I just started exploring. Then I stumbled on sites showing you how to get free stuff. I got my first freebie and took it into school and people were amazed. The trouble back then was that there was no real UK market and only a couple of sites out there. Most of the “freebie hunters” were on newsgroups and forums so I thought I’d build a site that listed them all the freebies in one place.
- Could you tell me a bit about MagicFreebies? What are your unique selling points?
We’re the most popular free stuff site in the UK with 1.5m newsletter members. We get between 20,000-40,000 unique users per day and it’s regularly at the top end of those numbers. We basically act as a portal listing all the free offers, free samples and competitions companies are running both on and offline. If someone is giving away something for free we know about it.
Discounting the amount of volume we can do for advertisers I think one of our biggest USPs is the advice we can offer them. Because myself and a lot of the team have years and years of experience we know what works. If we’re working directly with a client or agency we can help optimise landing pages and steer them in the right direction to get the best results for their campaign. In an industry like ours I’ve seen a lot of startups come and go so I think experience is really really important and can be quite rare.
- So I see that its MagicFreebies 20th birthday, how will you be celebrating?
With a lot of alcohol I imagine!!! It’s actually a big year for Julian and myself because we’re both getting married. He’s in June and I’m in September so there’s a lot to celebrate. I really wanted to take the office to the new Crystal Maze that just opened but it’s booked for a year so we’ll think of something else. I can guarantee whatever we do there will be a lot of food and there will be a lot of booze. The team like to celebrate.
- What have been your greatest achievements from the site in the last 20 years?
I still remember my first article in a national newspaper and my parents still have the cuttings in their house. That felt like a huge achievement at the time because I was just a kid with a computer and somehow my little freebie site was in The Times.
I think the greatest achievement may just be our longevity. So much has changed over the years and we’ve weathered every storm. When I started the site there was no mobile internet or social media. Social media has been a real help but mobile has presented a challenge for us. We build all our sites in house so when more and more people started browsing the net on mobile we had to adapt and adapt quickly. It took up a lot of resources to make the site mobile friendly but now we’ve done it the hard work has really paid off.
- How do you think the industry has changed in the last 20 years?
There have been so many changes over the years so it’s hard to keep this answer reasonably short. Apart from big things like mobile and social giants like Facebook I think there have been big changes in the affiliate space itself. Much needed rules and regulations have changed how affiliate sites look and what they do. People used to get away with so much that you just can’t do these days and that can only be a good thing for the end advertiser.
I think the rise of cashback and voucher sites has been one of the biggest changes for me. I can remember them starting and couldn’t foresee how huge they would become. If I did maybe we would be having a different conversation about another site of mine today! It’s crazy the amount of sales they drive and because we operate in a similar space it’s something I’ve really noticed.
Finally the level of competition has changed massively. The options people have these days to build a site are amazing compared to years ago. I had to learn how to code and design to build my first sites but now with things like WordPress and Squarespace anyone can build a great looking site with relative ease. That has made every part of the industry more competitive but it’s something we love. It keeps us on our toes and just makes us better and better. I think it also really benefits the users of sites. People can’t just sit back and rest on a poor site because someone will come along and do it better. That gives people a choice and they will always end up using the best site for their needs.
- What kind of goals do you have for MagicFreebies in the next 20 years?
I think we want to keep doing what we’re doing with MagicFreebies. We’re still growing every day and getting more and more people to the site. That growth is obviously incredibly important for us but we want to use that growth as a springboard for other projects. That way we can make sure everything we’ve learnt over the last 20 years is put to good use. At the moment I love what I do so I don’t have any plans to sell the websites or anything like that. So yeh, growth and new projects are in our plans.
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