Sports fans, pet lovers and fitness fanatics get news fix from UCL entrepreneur
As a UCL student Martin Caparrotta built a highly successful sports news website and continues to innovate in the digital content space.
20 November 2020
The Sport Review website, first launched in 2008, delivers a unique mix of breaking news, social content and original reporting on the world’s most popular sports. The site now often attracts more than two million unique monthly users and has more than 300,000 followers on social media.
Martin and his co-founder Kieran Beckles have also recently launched two more websites, under their parent group Open Plan Media. HumanWindow is focused on health and wellness while helloBARK! provides informative content for pet owners.
A launchpad for success
Martin studied for a BA in Italian and Management at UCL, graduating in 2010. He had long harboured a love for sport and developed an interest in business through his degree programme. After his year abroad in Italy he resolved to develop his idea for a sports website during his final year of study. He made contact with UCL Innovation & Enterprise then entered and won the UCL Bright Ideas Awards (now the ‘Build your own business 3: Launch your business programme’).
“We weren’t looking for investment, as the running costs for our website were low. What it gave us was the confidence to really go for it. We had to do one initial pitch and second pitch on the final night, in front of business mentors, who really knew their stuff. Getting that seal of approval was a great confidence booster.”
The Sport Review was initially based out of BaseKX, UCL’s dedicated entrepreneurship hub, run by UCL Innovation & Enterprise. There they received business advice, mentorship and the right environment to structure and grow the company further.
Adapting in a changing digital world
Martin and Kieran have learned many lessons from a decade of running and developing The Sport Review, and continue to be successful.
“We’ve had to be ready to change approach quite quickly; be ready to adapt in terms of how people are consuming the media. When we started, our mobile traffic was nowhere near what it is today, which now represents over 90% of users.”
The business model for Sport Review primarily relies on display and banner advertising alongside their popular content.
“We’ve had to balance the journalism side of things with the commercial, and also the technical side of things on top of all that. How do we deploy the ads in the best possible way to maximize revenue without impacting user experience?”
New ideas for online content
In recent years the team has experimented with other business models including affiliate revenue. This involves creating content around products or services that chime with the team’s values and that they actively want to recommend. Then when a purchase is made, they get a commission related to that.
That was part of the reason behind developing the new ventures HumanWindow and helloBARK!. Both lend themselves to affiliate revenue, through the booming health and wellness and pet products markets. Most importantly though, according to Martin, is that each site delivers genuinely interesting, informative and useful content for their users.
“The main difference between these new websites and The Sport Review is that they’re focused on content that can still be relevant in years to come, whereas The Sport Review is more news focused, with constant updates.”
Commenting on Martin’s journey, Jerry Allen, Director of Entrepreneurship at UCL Innovation & Enterprise, said: “Our aim is to help students and alumni realise the potential of their ideas and get startups off the ground. But perhaps more important than that, we give them the tools to keep innovating, adapting and experimenting, throughout their careers, whatever field they end up in. Martin is a fantastic example of this and I wish him and the team at Open Plan Media the very best with all their future ventures.”
Find out more about:
- entrepreneurship support for UCL students
- UCL School of European Languages, Culture and Society
- Open Plan Media
- The Sport Review
Photo © Open Plan Media