When Viral Articles Help an Entrepreneur with His Startup

Bryan Choo

What makes articles go viral? Bryan Choo, founder of TheSmartLocal.com, has that figured out. Scroll through your Facebook feed; you’ll find at least one friend sharing an article from his site. But unlike others with media jobs in Singapore – and some without – Bryan does not consider himself purely a writer.

Even though the job title on his name card states ‘Editor-in-Chief’, Bryan sees himself more as a Startup Entrepreneur. TheSmartLocal had a modest beginning in 2012, but it had since seen millions of unique visitors each month, half of them being regular or returning visitors. And that’s mostly thanks to his articles that have gone viral.

Bryan believes reader consumption patterns are very different in print and on the internet – readers have a lot more choices online. Because of this, media companies have to continuously innovate and evolve to adapt to the changing environment and to cater to their readers. One way is by creating interesting content people will want to share.

When asked what inspires him to continuously generate content, Bryan said “[It is] knowing that we are creating positive and helpful content for Singaporeans out there.”

For article inspiration, he likes looking to Buzzfeed, one of the biggest media sites in the world that produces viral content every few minutes. Like many successful digital startups, it has an inspiring story behind it. In 2006, it was just a viral meme site. Fast forward to 8 years later, it has become a media publishing powerhouse with investigative and longform pieces that cover everything from news to politics.

“Buzzfeed is very relevant to the digital media generation of today, and it is constantly evolving and improving. It might just be the perfect new media company of the future,” Bryan said.

TheSmartLocal seems to be going in the same direction. The best part about it is how localised its content is. It might just be the Buzzfeed of Singapore.

Because it is still small in size and team, Bryan has to wear several different hats throughout the work day. He spends the early part of his day with the leads of their editorial and video content teams, where they put their heads together to generate ideas and plan for future content.

When he’s done with his meetings and networking events, he starts finalising and preparing everything for publication the next day. And with the digital age comes the responsibility of updating TheSmartLocal’s social media channels as well.

It must be very tiring for Bryan, but all his hard work has paid off. TheSmartLocal has become the site with the most shared content in Singapore history. With a fan base established, Bryan can start focusing on his next aim: to become a TripAdvisor with crowdsourced reviews made by locals instead of visitors.

For anyone looking to create a startup, Bryan offered some advice: “Work hard to put yourself in a position where you are able to sense and grab opportunities when they arise.”

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