20 Years of Free Stuff
Meet CEO of Magic Freebies Tom Bryant
After five long years it’s finally time to utilise this must-see blog area of our website. It’s been a great ride for Planit and we’re looking forward to many more years of tears, joy and laughter. We’ll be using this blog to talk about interesting developments in the performance space – to tell you about new advertisers, case studies, our fantastic range of media and tech partners, and also throw in the odd totally random piece, all in the name of shameless self-promotion. Our first post is from a key partner of ours, Tom Bryant at Magic Freebies, a key partner of Planit that has provided many of our advertisers with 1000s of new customers. We hope you like it. If you do, please make sure you share!
Magic Freebies, the most popular free stuff site in the UK, is celebrating its 20th birthday this year. So we thought we'd ask their CEO Tom Bryant a few questions and get to know him and the site a bit better.
So Tom, how does the site work and how did you come up with the idea?
Essentially MagicFreebies is a portal for people from the UK to find all the free stuff that’s available on and offline. We have a team of people here who crawl the net looking for companies giving away samples or products as part of their advertising campaigns.
When we find something we put it on the site. Each day we try to find 8 new freebies and a newsletter is sent out to our members to show them what’s new. Our most popular items are free cosmetics or free chocolates. There have been some pretty weird and wonderful freebies along the way but they remain the most popular.
I started the site in its original form when I was eleven at school. I couldn’t even afford the domain name back then so it was hosted on a free hosting site and had a bizarre URL. The internet was just becoming mainstream and friends were getting it in their homes. My parents got a PC and I just started playing around.
I ended up on a site that was giving away a really cool freebie and started browsing for more. I remember taking a free roll up calculator into school and everyone thought it was really cool. They thought it was even cooler that I got it for free. I got the bug and wanted to get more and more freebies. The problem back then were a lot of the sites were USA-centric so I aimed to build a site where all the UK freebies were listed in one place. There were only a couple of competitors and I thought I could do a better job.
It can’t have been a full-time job back then?
Haha, no it wasn’t. I was eleven! I didn’t know what I was doing. I’d do a little in the mornings before school and a little when I got back. I was basically just trying to find freebies and then put them on the site. There wasn’t mobile internet back then so apart from checking a few e-mails in the computer room at school I had to do most things when I could on a dial up at home. Progress was pretty slow.
It was more of a hobby then so I didn’t really care. I didn’t update every single day like we do now. I just did it when I had time. I started building a relatively small following but it was pretty cool having a few hundred people to the site. Now we get over 40,000 daily unique visitors to the site several times a week.
How many people work at MagicFreebies now?
There are eleven of us now but the team is growing quite rapidly at the moment. We have a dedicated content team now as well who scout the net for new freebies and deals. They also write really interesting articles for our users on things like money saving. We have separate teams for sales and tech.
We’ve built a few more sites in the past 4 or 5 years and are looking to grow them as well. There’s only a finite amount of people interested in free stuff so we want to create broader sites and platforms that cater to the masses.
That’s not to say we’re not planning new things for MagicFreebies. Watch this space because there are a few big changes coming. Having said that, a lot of our staff resources are spent on the new sites and ideas where we see real growth potential. The freebie site is still growing day on day so we can afford to divert some resources to trying new things.
How do you make money from the site?
We make the majority of our revenue from affiliate marketing or direct deals with agencies and brands. We’re seen as a huge traffic driver to offers and are by far and away the most popular freebie site in the UK. That gives us power to negotiate deals that are competitors are unable to.
Most of the deals pay when one of our users signs up to an offer but we can also get paid for driving sales too. In the case of getting paid for registrations, for example, if a company like L’Oreal is giving away free samples they can pay us per user who comes from our website and then registers with them to claim the freebie.
How has the freebie world changed over the years?
It’s changed massively but being honest there’s nothing on the internet that hasn’t changed over the last 20 years. I think the biggest change for the freebies space is the amount that are being given away.
Companies have realized the power of running giveaways online. Not only can they get their new products in consumers’ hands but they can also get feedback on their social channels once people start to receive them.
Are freebies a worthwhile avenue of advertising for brands?
Traditionally freebies were given out offline at places like railway stations and on the high street. The idea being that if you think people like it after trying it they will buy it in future. The same can be said for online except you can also find out more information about the person getting the item. You don’t have to pay someone money to survey a person you just ask them the questions online while they’re claiming the freebie.
This makes giving away samples of your product so beneficial. Not only can you get people trying your product, you get their details to remarket to and you also get feedback on your product. It’s incredibly expensive to do that offline but everyone has the internet in their pocket these days so online is far cheaper and actually yields better responses.
What’s the plan for the next 20 years?
To be honest I’m not entirely sure. Every day is different and that hasn’t changed since day one. It’s very hard to predict where you want things to be in 20 years because so much changes day to day. We plan to continue growing MagicFreebies and adding new features. The wider plan is to build lots more sites that cater to more people and we can start talking to different agencies and brands.
That will all involve taking on more and more staff so from a personal level I’m sure my role in the company will evolve massively over the next 2 decades. If I can do it like Richard Branson and work from an island in paradise somewhere then I wouldn’t be complaining.