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Back in , he saw the shift to digital beginning and recognized an opportunity to build a mobile-first celebrity encyclopedia that could be easily read on a phone.
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At the time, Wikipedia pages were clunky and poorly formatted, packed with low-quality photos and too much information. So Britton built a simple site and populated it with easy-to-skim stats on stars such as Rihanna, Tom Hanks, and Jennifer Lawrence, hoping the site would become a respectable home for information on A-listers. But then something strange happened. At first, Britton and his team thought it must be spam.
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But they looked into it and realized that they all had huge followings on platforms like YouTube, Vine, and Tumblr. Britton and his small team slowly began building profiles for these new internet stars, often relying on information from the stars themselves—unlike traditional celebrities, influencers were easy to track down.
Britton worked with them to set up profiles on Famous Birthdays, complete with preapproved pictures and fact-checked info. The more people he added, the more traffic grew.
Britton is thoughtful, earnest, and eager to hear feedback about his site. When we met in his Santa Monica office recently, I was struck by how removed he seems from the flashy world of online influencers. Framed behind his standing desk is an article about user experience and mobile-site design. His personal Instagram account has barely followers and is set to private.
Britton has never employed advertising, marketing, or PR staff, nor has he taken outside funding. But by , Famous Birthdays was so well known in the industry that when Britton brought his person team to VidCon, an annual convention for online-video creators, teenage fans and YouTubers alike kept mentioning the company at events and panels; one of his employees was even accosted by fans while wearing a Famous Birthdays T-shirt in line.
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The company also began to get flooded with submissions. I found out gamer Jacksepticeye holds a degree in hotel management. As with other detail-oriented websites looking at you, TV Tropes , a single visit to Famous Birthdays can result in hours of fascinated clicking. Take a look:. Creators and their fans have become so concerned with their standing on Famous Birthdays that the brand itself has gathered its own measure of celebrity.
Social media standouts like Baby Ariel pictured above visit its offices to say hi. Given how strongly Famous Birthdays has woven itself into the fabric of Gen Z and the social media stars that cohort follows, one might assume that Britton and his team had impressive foresight about upcoming cultural trends when he decided to launch his website back in By gleaning insights from its internal search bar, the platform connected with Gen Z users who made their passions clear and indicated that they wanted their own database of celebrity facts.
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By serving that need, Famous Birthdays has found a space it can grow into, to the point that it is making its own explorations in the world of content creation. Famous Birthdays first launched as a platform on which visitors could find fast facts about the traditional media superstars who were most familiar to people like Britton.
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The plan was to drive engagement by encouraging fans of these celebs to submit information about them and by grouping them together based on their shared biographical data, such as their dates of birth, first names, or professions. They wanted to learn, submit, and promote information about social media stars who make their living on the internet, many of whom did not yet have their own Wikipedia pages. In order to learn who its users are clamoring to learn about, Famous Birthdays relies on a single valuable tool: its internal search box.
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Like many other websites, Famous Birthdays lets its users look up the stars they seek in order to get to their desired factoids faster. The searches that fail to return an active page reveal important information to Britton and his team. Those misses show the stars whose fans are currently demanding a closer connection but are unable to find it elsewhere, and those celebs are the ones who are likely to get their own Famous Birthdays pages in the future.
And so, with its internal search box as its guide, Famous Birthdays continues to stay ahead of the curve. When fans start to organically demand a profile, whether it be for an actor in a Netflix show , a band, or an Indonesian Musical. Those who have not yet received profiles of their own often reach out to Famous Birthdays in hopes of turning up on the site.