Today I am interviewing Josh Moorcroft-Jones – a technology and video games journalist from the UK. Josh is the founder of NintendoFeed.com and has been developing websites and blogging since he was just 12!
Oliver: Tell me a bit about yourself and how you got started on the web. In simple terms, how did you get to where you are now and what are your biggest achievements?
Josh: From an extremely early age, technology has provided me with great interest. I have never been extremely competitive in terms of sport or anything else along those lines. Every kid loved Nintendo as a child, and most go on to play games like Call of Duty. Although, the difference with me is that I never did grow out of Nintendo!
Nintendo Feed (started as Nintendo Fans Online) was mainly an experiment in the early days. I played around with a few different niches of websites to see what worked for me. Although, perhaps the most important thing was that I never did start the website with the intention to make any money. That was just a great perk that came along the way!
Oliver: Would you say you need a lot of money to get a successful business started online? What can you do if you don’t have any or much money to get started?
Josh: As I highlighted earlier, I never did have the intention to make any profit from my hobby. I purchased our first domain name for literally about a fiver, I think it was. We were using a free hosting service and we were just reviewing old games that I owned or had saved up to buy.
After a little while, we signed up to Google’s AdSense service. But they paid literally peanuts, so I would most certainly recommend avoiding them. Then, around February last year, I was approached by Unruly Media. They had just begun a new Partnership with Nintendo and wanted sites to place their new ads on. We were to be among the first.
Unruly Media helped us greatly, we still work with them to this day and they are our main advertising partners. Having some appreciation for your work will give you great confidence and I only wish that I had contacted them sooner!
Oliver: How did you build your team? Have you had the same team throughout? How do you manage your team?
Josh: I had been running the site for so long on my own that I was extremely reluctant to take on any team members. I had the way that I liked things to be run and I knew that some of that would be compromised with bringing in new people. Up until around June last year, I had only had a little help from a few friends and members of family and the everyday site running was done by me.
Upon taking on some team members I realised how much easier it made things and I was much happier to grow my team. All of our writers work voluntarily and that is something that I make clear from the offset. Nowadays, I get an awful lot of requests to join the team and I admit that I select them very carefully. I have always said that I don’t want to see the team exceed a couple of dozen people, because then it becomes a lot less personal.
If you ask any of our team members, they will be able to stress quite clearly how particular I am. All articles are quality tested by me and me only (I can only trust myself to do that). I specify everything for writing an article, even including the length the closing line of a paragraph must be.
Oliver: What are the challenges of having your own business being under 18 and how have you overcome them?
Josh: I never started the website as a business in the slightest, as I said this was because I had no intention to make money. I had absolutely no business understanding really and that’s just something that I had picked up over time. Being relatively young, I have found that I have the confidence to quite easily bargain deals and even say no to people.
For me, when this became a business, I was always going to do this all above board. I file tax reports and keep accounts and do all sorts of important things like that. Luckily, I have had friends and family with experience of those kind of things to help me along the way.
Oliver: How did you manage to develop a relationship with Nintendo and other partners? That is extremely impressive.
Josh: I really do have to thank Unruly Media for that. Ever since they contacted me I was given the confidence to put myself out there and be prominent in the extremely fast moving market. Whenever I saw a game that I thought needed reviewing on the site I decided to simply e-mail the developer and ask for it. I didn’t really know this could be done until now.
I then decided that we were maybe worthy of contacting Nintendo and asking for their help with the launch of the 3DS. Surprisingly, they were extremely forthcoming and supportive of our course. The representatives of their PR Company were more than happy to send us out review consoles and games.
From there on in, I found myself being contacted by different companies, such as Character World UK and asking for information about advertising etc.
Oliver: What advice would you give to people to get advertising companies to want to contact them or if that is not possible from your experience what would you say people could do to “get in the door”?
Josh: I was purely just extremely lucky. A member of staff came across our site, liked the look of it and decided to ask about advertising with us. At first, I was a little reluctant to give a reply as we weren’t that big back then and I was a little suspicious as to why they wanted to specifically advertise on our site. But I guess they just saw potential! Although, one piece of advice I would give is to not wait to be contacted.
Send an e-mail out to all of the advertising companies you can, wait till you get some replies and decide which one you like the best. That way it keeps you in control. Always make sure that you are in control so you can sell to them what it is that they want – which is advertising space related to their industry. Another option is to just sell advertising spaces yourself. This can be a little difficult but could potentially work out better in the long run.
Oliver: You’ve been making websites and blogging since you were 12, what is the biggest and most important lesson you have learnt in that time?
Josh: Think big and never settle for second best! The internet is an extremely competitive market and for me it was extremely difficult. I knew that there were many other websites out there that offered much better content than I was able to.
One of my very early targets was to hit 200 visitors a day, and I kept raising that figure until we were at the point that we are today. We now hit thousands of visitors each day and the numbers continue to escalate. It’s so satisfying knowing that when I hit publish on an article, there’s people out there waiting to read it!
Oliver: What is a typical work day like for you?
Josh: I always try to give Nintendo Feed my full attention. I try and report the latest Nintendo news when it comes in because I know that the readers are waiting for it. In between this, I catch up on review games that have recently arrived.
I also spend the day responding to a heck of a lot of e-mails. But I really do like to keep things extremely organised. I create lists of all the review games and codes that come in and mark them off for each contributor, and I take the ones that I like the look of!
Oliver: What is the biggest challenge of launching and maintaining a web-business?
Josh: The competition! There are many much bigger and better sites out there. Especially in my niche, look at the likes of IGN and Eurogamer. I personally don’t read sites like that, and I know a lot of my readers don’t. They all like the personal touch that we are able to offer. We are able to communicate and talk with our community.
A big tip though is to make friends of your ‘enemies’. We have become affiliates with a lot of other sites in our same niche. This helps use to spread the readers around.
Oliver: What app or site could you not live without? Both personally and for your websites.
Josh: Now that’s a real tricky one. I may have to name a few. The first would be Skype because that’s our main communication tool amongst the team and for fast communication I find e-mail to be a bit sluggish.
Twitter is another big one that we love. Our Twitter account is gaining popularity extremely quickly and a large amount of our readers are readily available on there. Not only does it allow us to let our readers know what is happening extremely quickly but they can also fire questions and answers back at us. I absolutely love the buzz of Twitter when a big event like E3 is happening.
It would be wrong to forget Blogger in this which is our CMS. Hosted by Google, Blogger is the reason why we’re here. It’s a free service that saves us a load of money, but it extremely flexible. We actually moved to Blogger from the slightly more popular WordPress.
Oliver: What do you do to avoid distraction when blogging?
Josh: There’s a simple answer to this one and that is, I don’t! I believe that I work best with the TV on in the background etc. I often find myself pausing to browse the internet, whilst in the middle of writing a review. Different people work in different ways. With me, I never do enter a writing ‘zone’ as I don’t believe I have one. I believe that if I cut myself off from the outside world, I will lose any creativity and normality in my articles.
Oliver: What is the best thing about running a web business?
Josh: I would say the money, but it’s really not. I absolutely love the community. It’s worth it just to know that there are people out there receiving enjoyment for what I do. The best thing is that I am young, I can afford to take chances and be risky and if for some reason it doesn’t work out, I will just start all over again!
It is also awesome to think about all of the friends that I have gained from what I do. Many people have respect for me because of my profession. There’s so many developers, PR representatives, advertising consultants etc. that I believe will be good friends for life.
Oliver: Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years time and how do you think your early ambition to blog and design on the web will benefit you in what you want to do?
Josh: If we continue to grow at the rate that we have done over the past few years then I struggle to comprehend how big Nintendo Feed will be in a few years. I dream of us having a big office with lots of team members. It would be nice to see the website become completely self-sufficient so that I am able to move on and found further projects.
I also hope to have officially founded a company within the next few years. I have always liked the prospect of being a ‘director’. Although, at this current time, I may find it a little difficult to turn this project into a full time arrangement.
We also have plans to submit our mobile app to the Google Play Store within the next few months which would be a great resemblance of what we have achieved.
It was an absolutely great decision to start early, trust me! When you’re older you really just won’t have the time to pursue your dream of owning an internet business. Starting young has provided me with great experience. Plus, it’s going to help me greatly in future life. When going for a job, with my experience, my CV should stand out quite prominently. And whilst you have the time now, that’s an opportunity that’s really not to be missed.
Oliver: Any words for the readers?
Josh: We’re all so lucky to grow up in a time where it’s so easy to get yourself out there and do what you love and potentially make money from it. Do it whilst you’re young! As an adult, you’ll have less time to kickstart that business that you have always dreamed of. Put yourself out there and be confident. I know so many people who wish they had taken my journey.
Don’t just settle for a decent paying job with a big company, keep striving for more until you reach the top of that company. Always strive for more, you won’t get anywhere unless you ask.
Oliver: Thank you so much for your time Josh! Good luck with your future ventures.
Josh: Thanks a lot for speaking to me Oliver! I interview so many people, it makes a nice change to be interviewed myself. I should really hope to speak to you again very soon!