It’s rare to come across a company that offers marketing insights in addition to generating fascinating and addictive content. Enter Ranker, the digital media company that lets you share your opinion about everything. With the data they receive, Ranker generates meaningful correlations across hundreds of crowdsourced lists, giving marketers the valuable information they need. For example, you may have had a hunch that fans of Aziz Ansari fans are 6X more likely to view Donald Glover as a top Comedian, but now you can know for sure. The Startup is finally putting all those hours of Internet polls and quizzes to use by providing actionable insights to interested marketers. With 4 rounds of funding and $5.1M raised, Ranker and Ranker Insights are the dynamic duo offering endless entertainment and endless data points.
LA TechWatch chatted with serial entrepreneur and CEO and founder Clark Benson about the company, its genesis, and its bright future.
Tell us about the product or service.
Ranker is a leading digital media company for opinion-based, crowdsourced rankings on just about everything. Ranker puts the power in the hands of our audience to answer debates on topics including pop culture, sports, politics, brands and lifestyle. Using Ranker’s unique technology, those opinions become definitive rankings based on the “wisdom of the crowd.” Based in Los Angeles, we attract more than 40 million monthly unique visitors and over 80 million monthly visits worldwide, and we are one of the top ranked publishers in the US. Earlier this year, we launched Ranker Insights, which allows marketers and media buyers to discover deep, psychographic insights into consumer audiences and identify unseen relationships between consumer preferences surrounding a vast range of individuals, media, and brands. We leverage millions of data points to create B2B partnerships with a range of networks, production companies, movie studios and music labels across all platforms.
Ranker Insights tracks demographic popularity (broken down by age, sex and geographic region) within a global audience, as well as an extensive series of lists detailing the overlap in fan preferences with hundreds of other films, TV shows, stars, etc. The data collected is used to pinpoint specific preferences that people have based on how they vote.
For example, movie studios can use Ranker Insights data to better target fans of specific actors/actresses when advertising a film. For instance, Ranker’s data shows that the best audiences to target for fans of Jennifer Lawrence are people that also like Chipotle, Deadpool, Ronda Rousey and Orange is the New Black. For Javier Bardem fans, we know to target fans of Shutter Island, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Pink Floyd and Mass Effect Andromeda.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
Ranker was created to give people the opportunity to share their opinions by creating and voting on lists for just about every category imaginable. Ranker has quickly grown into the web’s leading source of crowdsourced lists, with incredible traffic and engagement numbers that demonstrate consumers’ love of lists. Ranker visitors tend to dive down the “Ranker wormhole” as they find new lists to weigh in on.
In establishing Ranker as the leading source of lists, Ranker has developed a huge arsenal of valuable psychographic data that is enabling Ranker Insights to become a valuable resource for marketers and brands alike.
Would you mind telling us about your love of music?
In a nutshell, I’m a total music fanatic. In fact, I can barely think straight without music playing in the background. I have seen thousands of concerts and I own over 10,000 albums. In fact, in 2015 I saw 100 bands in one year. And of course, as the CEO of Ranker, which crowdsources lists on just about everything and anything I had to rank all 100 of the shows. If you just scan the top of this list, you may think, “eh, classic rock dude.” Not true, though this list is indeed mostly rock bands; The reason the top of these rankings is dominated by bands of the ’70s and ’90s is the reality that rock was better then. Rock isn’t dead. There is always great new rock coming out. Just not as much awesome new rock, and one of the amazing things about the live experience is seeing artists well past their recorded prime playing better live than they were back in the day.
Tell us a little about your background and what inspired the business?
I have founded 5 other businesses, including eCrush which was acquired by Hearst at the end of 2006, as well as Almighty Music Marketing/New Releases Now. I also co-owned a record store, Off/Beat Music in Redondo Beach, CA from 1996 to 2001. I have been an angel investor, including Jumpcut which was bought by Yahoo! in 05 or 06, though I currently am too busy with Ranker to do any angel investing. I also co-wrote a book called College: Your Guide To The Best Five Years of Your Life that was published 2 separate times in the mid-90s.
I decided to build Ranker because a) I love lists and always have, I love to rank things and opine on “what are the best” of any topic I am passionate about b) I believe in crowdsourcing as a model, c) I find that parsing through a lot of user submitted text reviews when trying to get an opinion about something is very cumbersome, and d) Typical 5 star (Yelp/Amazon) rating systems tend to cluster everything in the “upper middle”.
Tell us what building your company in LA has been like?
Building Ranker in LA has generally been quite positive. There are a lot of talented, creative people in LA, and the tech community at large is very supportive. There are some issues with access to capital – the lack of large VC funds hurts, and of course web publishers tend to be more NYC-based, so sometimes the talent pool for senior hires with current online publishing experience is a bit thin, but LA has just about everything else going for it.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
Ranker continues to be focused on revenue growth – we are up to 75 employees, adding more weekly, and have tripled revenues over the last 24 months. We have a ton of traffic – in Nov 2017 we will have over 100 million visits (50 million unique worldwide visitors) and have been steadily getting better at monetizing that traffic. We are currently focusing on “direct programmatic” sales, and also have started licensing our unique psychographic consumer data insights.
If you could be put in touch with one investor in the community who would it be and why?
I think I know most of the higher profile investors in LA. Since Ranker is really at the intersection of tech and entertainment, I suppose it would be nice if Peter Chernin looked at us. I think he would really get what we are doing. You reading this Peter?
What does being “Made in LA” mean to you and your company?
LA is a city of dreamers – I myself grew up in the Midwest and moved out to LA to follow my dreams after college. There is an energy in this town that is hard to match – you can find talented hires who are trying to make it as screenwriters, comedians, musicians, etc. Ranker is a pop culture hub and we feed off that LA creative energy from our editorial team and freelancers, and to me at least it’s a more interesting energy than you see in the Bay Area where there is a bit more naked capitalism / “keep pivoting until you make it rich”.
What else can be done to promote early stage entrepreneurship in Los Angeles?
I would say that the entrepreneurship community/ecosystem in this town is about as strong as it can get, with the exception that we could use more local venture capital, particularly later-stage. It has improved immensely over the last 10 years.
What is your favorite restaurant in LA?
Probably Katana, but that’s partially because it’s 5 minutes from my house and I don’t have time to drive far for a meal.