Spartz’s company, Spartz Media, is a thriving, profitable business. Between the company’s dozen or so sites, including OMG Facts and Gives Me Hope, he’s got an audience of 160 million monthly page views. And he’s got Jimmy Kimmel, Geraldo Rivera, JK Rowling, and millions of fans to thanks.
Emerson Spartz’s career in viral, community-based content started with MuggleNet, a Harry Potter fan site that Spartz started with a free website builder when he was 12. But Spartz wasn’t interested in creating just any Harry Potter fan site. Instead, he wanted to build the Harry Potter fan site. So, as a 12-year-old, Spartz began to email “literally thousands of people” around the world — site admins, moderators, and well-known Harry Potter enthusiasts — asking for link-trades. At its peak, MuggleNet was doing 50 million page views per month.
As Spartz pushed a community-based content creation model, the entire site ran off of free volunteers, which was a big deal in the days before the Huffington Post made free, community content a well-known business model. Spartz recruited from the most active contributors on the MuggleNet site, and gave them the ability to publish content.
During his time at Notre Dame, where he attended college, he was taking the normal load of classes. But it wasn’t enough, because he wasn’t feeling intellectually stimulated. In typical self-starter fashion, he decided to teach himself even more. In addition to taking a full load of classes and graduating from Notre Dame, Spartz also managed to create a new method of self-teaching that he designed for himself, which uses a complex method of initialisms, mnemonics, and flash-cards to force him to memorize concepts.
Along with his wife Gaby, Spartz founded Gives Me Hope, which marks the beginning of Spartz Media. Gives Me Hope is probably the most encouraging site you can visit on the Internet. The concept behind Gives Me Hope was to give people a way to share short, inspiring, and heartwarming true stories. All of the stories are a few dozen words, and go a little something like this one (GMH stands for Gives Me Hope):
By using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to direct traffic to Gives Me Hope, the company grew exponentially. The company’s network of sites now has millions and millions of followers, and is growing at a rate of 400,000 new followers every month.
Once the company started hiring, things really started to take off. According to Spartz, when the company was just the couple, it had 7 million monthly page views, when it had 5 employees, it saw 42 million page views. And when it had 160 million page views (present day), it had 30 employees. In three years, it had doubled the number of people coming to the site almost five times.
The company is looking to expand to as many verticals as possible, while still maintaining the support and without diluting the brand. According to Spartz, this means launching a new site every one to two months, with 95 percent of the sites being successful over time. As Spartz puts it, he wants to change collaboration platforms “in the same way that Jimmy Wales popularized the Wiki model and changed the world.”
“As somebody who has personally undergone positive psychology training and invested significant effort into building a great company culture with happy employees, I can attest to its efficacy. I’m a numbers guy – this is one of the simplest and most underutilized strategies for boosting employee productivity to generate ROI.”