A graduate who turned his back on a potentially lucrative career in corporate law and decided instead to launch “the world’s most pointless website” is celebrating after attracting interest from major advertisers.
Online PR News – 22-October-2010 – – Iain Haywood, who gained a law degree from Durham University in 2008, has won a cult following with his website RockSoapOpera.com – which chronicles the trials and tribulations of a group of characters played by pieces of rock.
The bizarre premise has gained a loyal fan base on the web with thousands of devotees visiting every day for the latest instalment of the show which features classic soap storylines, sometimes questionable gags, and characters such as Cheryl Coal - a lump of coal with a pink ribbon.
The site went viral after its launch last year and the attention of tech and web writers across the globe helped swell visitor numbers.
Much of the coverage focused on the random and bizarre nature of the site – with more than one writer dubbing it “the world’s most pointless website.”
But with so much media attention and a growing and fiercely loyal fan base, the site has now begun to attract some serious interest from advertisers.
With sponsorships from the likes of Firebox.com, and having been in talks with Nestle and other big brands, Iain feels that the potential of marrying brands with unique and creative campaigns is huge, and a number of blue-chip suitors are said to be waiting in the wings.
Iain said: "Our audience is hugely invested in the story and site. They're very receptive indeed to brand involvement. If there's a rewarding or interactive element where they can get directly involved in the story or contribute, this has proven to be very successful.
“The other rather exciting element we're keen to exploit is the potential for product placement. Brands seem keen to feature their product in the story, which of course will engage our users in the ultimate way, but of course, we are sensitive to our audience's sensibilities and this has to be handled gently."
Iain admitted he had considered following his peer group into corporate law after leaving university but found the lure of the internet difficult to resist.
Since graduation, he has built a portfolio of start-ups, from other niche media, to more traditional job and dating sites as well as RockSoapOpera.com.
He said: “I find the internet and the possibilities it offers incredibly exciting. The idea for Rock Soap Opera came from wanting to create something free, fun and utterly pointless. Within a few days of our launch a London newspaper ran an article which asked the question, ‘Is this the most pointless website ever?’ From then I felt that we were definitely on to something.
“One of the best things about RockSoapOpera.com is that it completely transcends the age and gender barriers. Most ‘cult’ media is enjoyed by a young, largely male audience, but ours is a 50:50 gender split, with plenty of older, less tech-savvy bods in the mix.
“Because it's largely pictorial with snappy captions, it's easy for audiences from foreign countries to get to grips with too, although our major sources outside the UK tend to be places like Holland, Switzerland and Belgium, who all speak excellent levels of English anyway.
“The potential for advertising is immense as cult media really holds on to visitors. It’s not unusual for our visitors to stay on the site for more than a dozen page impressions and our bounce rate is incredibly low.”
Now Iain is planning to capitalize further on his site’s success by launching a range of spin-offs starting with the launch of ‘Virtual Pet Rock’, an online social game.
He said: “It will be completely and instantly accessible and free, just to keep people on the site longer than it’d take to comment on the latest episode”.
Not content with his online success Iain also plans to extend the brand off-site and into the real world via Tamagotchi-style virtual pets. Although he says these plans are still in their early stages, he is in discussions regarding licensing Rock Soap Opera to electronic toy manufacturers.
He has also developed an iPhone app called Witty Kitty which allows the user to stroke an animated cat and be rewarded with jokes. Iain said: “Brits love the quirkiness, but Americans just don’t get it.”
He said: “My family are thrilled with how well RockSoapOpera.com and the other sites are doing although I suspect my parents still secretly wish I’d become a lawyer.”