Food for thought: The man who makes cooking videos go viral
- 28 November 2016
- From the section Business
If someone had told Jamie Bolding three years ago that he'd be earning a lot of money from making viral videos, he'd probably have quit his "proper job" a lot earlier.
Jamie, who is behind a host of videos that appear on people's Facebook newsfeeds, only lasted three weeks in an entry-level job at a drinks company, but he still thinks it was too long.
"I thought I could hack a real job, but I hated that I had no say in the decision making," says the 25-year-old founder and owner of online media group Jungle Creations.
So retiring to his mother's spare room in Surrey, in the south of England in early 2014, the business management graduate needed to find a different way to make money.
He decided to set up a website called Viral Thread that would collate videos and stories that had spread widely on the internet. The hope was that a great many people would visit the site, either directly or via Facebook, and he could make money by carrying advertising.
Jamie admits that he was inspired by seeing other people already doing the same thing.
"There was a similar site called Viral Nova at the time - it was just one guy sitting at home making money out of sharing viral clips and I thought 'this seems like a simple scheme to replicate'," he says.
Tapping into the student market he also started to write original content about the typical things you'd experience at university, pushing it out primarily on Facebook pages he had built up.
"After a few months the articles started going viral and instead of earning 6p from advertising all of a sudden it was around £600 a day," says Jamie.
"The first thing I did was say 'look Mum' - that was the moment I knew I could actually make it into a business."
By the summer of 2014 traffic to the Viral Thread website had grown so much that Jamie enlisted a friend, a journalism graduate, to help out with creating new content.
"It wasn't a normal set up - he'd come to my house and we'd play [computer game] Fifa, cook some food, write some articles, and I would be building the Facebook page."
But if it looked to an outsider that they weren't doing much work, the Viral Thread's Facebook page quickly grew in popularity, and by February 2015 had hit one million likes. One video they shared even gained 20 million likes over a weekend.
'Camembert hedgehog bread'
Today Viral Thread has six million followers on Facebook, and is just one part of Jungle Creations.
Another big focus of the business is producing food videos - easy to follow recipe guides - via websites such as Twisted and Food Envy, which again make their money via advertising.
With the videos also uploaded to Facebook and You Tube, two of the most popular have been "camembert hedgehog bread" and "sushi cake".
Jamie says: "We knew we wanted to branch out from Viral Thread, and what we'd seen by spending all our time on the internet was that food was a hot topic - it was going viral," says Jamie.
But their polished food videos weren't always so well done.
"We started out with a Go Pro [camera] in my friend's kitchen," says Jamie, "We cringe when we look at them now. But it's great to see how far we've come."
Jungle Creations now has 12 websites or "channels" in total, including Bosh, which is dedicated to vegan food, and Nailed It, which gives fun art and design tips.
One of the reasons Jamie believes the videos work so well is their simplicity. The video of camembert hedgehog bread for example, runs for just under a minute, and shows an aerial view of how to make a whole camembert inside a loaf of bread. It has so far been viewed by 21 million people
"If anyone starts to get confused their interest will automatically be lost and they'll flick past it. So we keep them quick, simple and entertaining," explains Jamie.
Despite having not had any outside investment, Jungle Creation's revenues are now expanding strongly. Jamie says that its annual turnover in past financial year was £2.5m, nearly nine times the previous 12 months.
And in an amazing statistic provided by research group Tubular Labs, Jungle Creation's online videos are now watched more than 2.5 billion times a month. This makes it the sixth most-viewed media company in the online sphere, behind the Walt Disney company in fifth place, and in front of US media giant Comcast in seventh.
This is impressive for a business that currently has just 36 employees at its loft style office in fashionable Shoreditch, in the east of London.
But having come straight out of university, and still at only 25, has Jamie's age ever been a disadvantage?
"Never," he insists, "We're respected because of what we've built up and the content we've created, so we're always taken seriously with anyone we've worked with."
And that's his next step, to increase the amount of videos Jungle Creations makes for other companies.
Having already worked with the likes of Oreo and Yo! Sushi, helping them to launch new menus and flavours with shareable videos, the results speak for themselves - with one of the videos they created with Oreo accumulating eight million likes across social media.
Jungle Creations charges firms a minimum of £20,000 per video, but guarantees that they are viewed by more than one million people. If they don't reach that number, the client gets another video for free.
Jerry Daykin, global digital partner at media agency Carat, says: "While many traditional publishers have tried to adapt their existing content with re-edits or subtitles, Jungle Creations food channels have pioneered new approaches.
"The clips are instant, attention grabbing, and play heavily on delicious and iconic ingredients.
"There's a scientific side to Jungle Creations' success too, with the company applying a forensic approach to data to truly optimise and iterate the content it's producing, which sets them apart from publishers built on a more traditional human editor led approach."
Jamie says that a key reason for the company's success is "because we've been impatient and excited to get to the next step".