From zoology to LADbible: students get some career advice

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Date: 8th Nov 2017

How does someone who studied zoology, or had to sweet talk the personal cameraman of Colonel Gaddafi get a job at viral news site LADbible?

By being ‘flexible and taking opportunities’ according to Luke Smedley.

The submissions and acquisitions manager, at LADbible Group, filled a lecture hall at Bucks New University last week with his talk about his career and managing a team who deal with more than 4,000 pieces of submitted content a week.LADbible lecture

Students and staff heard how the UK’s 10th most visited website is shaking off the old connotations of ‘lad’ by ‘redefining entertainment’ and backing social issues.

Luke worked at the Associated Press (AP) for 12 years, the world’s oldest and largest news agency formed in 1846. He rose from a junior cataloguer to leading a large team managing some of AP’s most important customer delivery websites and as well as its global film and video archives.

His most unusual job with AP was working with a customer to secure archive footage of Colonel Gaddafi, and apart from a minor incident where he thought he was going to be held hostage… it was a success.

But since then he moved on to LADbible, which also has sister sites Pretty52 and SPORTbible. He said: “Our mission is to redefine entertainment and news for a social generation. We have 28 million followers on Facebook so we have an astonishing reach that very few can compare to.

“We use that reach to really engage with our audience - that could be putting a smile on someone’s face with a funny video or by engaging our audience on social issues that are important to them. The ultimate aim for us is to make a positive difference.”

LADbible’s latest campaign is called Trash Isles which is fighting the amount of waste plastic which is in the world’s seas. Some eight million tonnes of plastic litter enters the sea every year, equating to an area of trash the size of France.

It is raising this important issue by enlisting the help of BAFTA-winning actor Ross Kemp and lobbying the UN to recognise the plastic mass as an actual country called the Trash Isles.

This may seem frivolous to some, but it’s tactics like this which is engaging LADbible’s audience about a serious issues.

Luke has a team around him which have an innate knack for spotting what’s going to go viral. But is there a formula for this?

“No. Our content team just has an amazing ability to know what is going to be popular and what will achieve millions and millions of views,” explained Luke.

But because of that ability, LADbible has ContentBible - a licensing arm of the group. It can help other businesses find the best content for different audiences and handle all the clearance and legal checks for them.

Luke has just created a new team all made up of graduates, and he had some advice for future Bucks New University alumni.

“Stay flexible and look out for all opportunities that might be available to you, don’t be too blinkered about the route you are going to go down,” said Luke at the lecture last month.

“For instance I have a surprising background. I studied zoology so it’s a bit different to where I’ve ended up now. But I just jumped in when the position became available at AP and they recognised my talent, took a gamble with me and I’ve not looked back.

“It’s important to get your name out, talk to people, go to events and find out what’s going on in the industry that you are interested in. Look at who the important people are within that industry, follow them on LinkedIn, see what they’re talking about. But above all stay flexible – consider the left field jobs that might not be the obvious choice. Networking is key.”

Stephen Partridge at Buckinghamshire New University, said: “It’s great that our network of highly credible guest lecturers such as Ross Landau is able to deliver guest speakers of such a high calibre as Luke Smedley.

The currency of Luke’s presentation was extremely engaging, and provided compelling insight into a thriving and innovative new social media-driven business.”

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