- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
It started, like most Hollywood success stories do, with a group of Russian programmers and a dream. A dream to create a website about advertising for marketers.
“It was super small, and very, very niche,” admits Arthur Mamedov, COO of TheSoul Publishing, which was co-founded by co-CEOs Pavel Radaev and Marat Mukhametov, on the company’s humble origins as a B2B blog for the marketing industry. “But this was back in 2003, the early days of the Internet. As the Internet expanded, so did we, by not just talking about advertising to marketers, but by moving into something with a broader audience.”
First, the company moved into memes —”basically posting fun facts, pictures, funny stories, but no video” — with the same content translated and localized for the Spanish, Portuguese, French and English-language markets.
In 2015, from its base of operations in Cyprus, TheSoul Publishing shifted to online videos, launching DIY channels Bright Side — featuring how-to trivia along the lines of “13 Tips on How to Survive Wild Animal Attacks” —and 5-Minute Crafts (family-friendly crafts and life hacks).
“Then things really took off,” says Mamedov.
That’s putting it mildly.
This year, TheSoul Publishing became the first media publisher to reach 100 billion social media views for its online content. According to data from social video analytics provider Tubular Labs, TheSoul Publishing’s portfolio of short-form video content, which also includes viral hit channels like 123 GO! (challenges, pranks and short-form comedy), Slick Slime Sam (DYI science and experiments, narrated by pink, talking slime) and La La Life (like 123 Go! but with music videos), has rocketed the company to the number one position in terms of social media views on YouTube and Facebook, ahead of the Walt Disney Company, ViacomCBS, Comcast, WarnerMedia or Sony Pictures Entertainment. As of May 2021, 5-Minute Crafts was the ninth most-subscribed channel on YouTube. Overall, TheSoul Publishing channels have more than 1 billion subscribers worldwide.
“It’s both incredible and inspiring to see what TheSoul Publishing continues to build on our platform, reaching billions and billions of fans and cementing themselves as one of the biggest creator brands in the world,” said Jamie Byrne, director of YouTube Creators.
When asked about how they avoided the $1.75 billion mistake Jeffrey Katzenberg made with Quibi — the short-lived short form subscription service that folded eight months after its launch in April last year — Mamedov highlights how TheSoul Publishing invested in hands-on producers and data-driven web analytics, not the whims of Hollywood creatives.
“We operate in a very different way. We’re demand-driven,” says Mamedov. “We look at the data to see what the audience wants, and we make content for the audience. Then we see what gets audience response, and then we increase our production capacity to make more of that type of content and adapt it across all platforms and all languages.”
The company does everything in-house with production teams across 70 countries sharing data and techniques. And they are adding staff fast.
“Just to give you an idea how fast: last month we hired over 150 people, which is about eight percent of our total workforce, and that wasn’t even a record-breaking month,” Mamedov notes.
As the company expands, TheSoul Publishing is moving beyond low-tech DIY videos into more sophisticated productions, including animation from Doodland, which features short clips of real-life footage with an animation overlay to Avocado Couple, a cartoon comedy series about two anthropomorphic avocados.
“Right now, we are taking what we learned in short-form video and pivoting into broader segments,” says Mamedov. “And we’re expanding beyond social media platforms. So we’re looking to create longer formats, episodic content that we can sell to streaming platforms. We’re launching our own music label to create and promote artists…as we do we’re going to need to work with a larger talent base, particularly a Hollywood talent base, so we can source things like scriptwriting.”
But while they push into longer-form fiction, TheSoul Publishing intends to stick to its “follow the data” approach to production and do its family-friendly “no-politics” editorial line.
“We define everything we do as ‘universally positive entertainment’,” says Mamedov. “So we avoid anything controversial or with a local agenda. Obviously, that means no politics, but we don’t do sports content either, because sports is local. That’s not our business model. Whatever we want to produce, we want to be positive and inspirational and able to appeal to audiences everywhere in the world.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day