Over the last 13 years, Ranker has built a profitable business by crowdsourcing lists and rankings for seemingly everything—from the best fantasy movies of the 1980s to the greatest grapefruit soda brands.
Now, Ranker finds itself on an esoteric list: Companies with their logos plastered atop Los Angeles high-rise buildings. The digital media firm recently placed 7-foot “Ranker” signs on three sides of its headquarters in Mid-Wilshire, in the heart of L.A.
Despite being a high-trafficked site boasting of 30 million unique monthly visitors, Ranker is not a household name. The new signage is part of the company’s push to change that. It’s “the beginning of a concerted effort to take the Ranker brand to the next level,” founder and CEO Clark Benson told dot.LA.
"We got outbid for the Crypto.com Arena naming rights, so we went with plan B,” he joked. “In all seriousness, I am proud of this company and wanted to put the Ranker brand on full display.”
Launched in 2009, Ranker publishes rankings and lists covering pop culture, food, history and more. Visitors to the site can up-vote or down-vote items, producing crowdsourced rankings. In a world full of listicles, Ranker aims to stand apart by offering depth and breadth. Some lists, such as the Most Rewatchable Movies, contain more than 1,000 entries. Others provide a place for geeks to settle niche debates, like the best planets in the Star Wars universe.
Ranker founder and CEO Clark Benson
Photo courtesy of Ranker
“You can't answer the best movies of all time in a top 10. That's ridiculous,” Benson said. “So we've always strove for—and I guess it's that completest gene in me—I've always been like, I want to have the definitive ranking across any topic that matters broadly.”
That approach has resonated with Ranker’s users, who stay on the site for 3.2 minutes on average, a company spokesperson said. All told, people have cast more than 1.2 billion votes on Ranker, Benson said. The company, which makes most of its money from advertising, has been profitable since 2016 and generates annual revenue in the “healthy eight figures,” Benson said. It now has 125 employees.
Still, Ranker is trying to evolve into something more than a website to find a new horror series on Netflix or see how others rank U.S. presidents. A few years ago, the company built a video department that now occupies one of its two floors inside the office building at 6421 Wilshire Blvd. Ranker produces web series on YouTube, Snapchat and other platforms that now account for 20% of its business, Benson said.
A more nascent business is Ranker Insights, a data offering aimed at feeding the entertainment industry with information on consumers’ interests. As Ranker visitors vote on multiple lists, the company says it can gain insight on someone’s taste in TV shows or spot correlations between different movies or celebrities (For example, Ranker found a “very strong” correlation between fans of actress Margot Robbie and rockstar Ozzy Osbourne, Benson said). Marketers could hypothetically use the data to find likely audiences for a TV series, he added.
The company is also interested in licensing its rankings, much like how streamers using smart TVs can see a Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB score for a movie. Ranker is “actively working” to be in this space, but hasn’t yet struck a deal, a spokesperson said.
Ranker has been in the Mid-Wilshire building for a decade, but an existing tenant held the signage rights, Benson said. As the company grew, it became the largest tenant and eventually secured the rights when another tenant moved out. The three signs and annual leasing rights cost Ranker more than six figures and it took over a year to get the signs up, though some of that may be blamed on COVID, Benson said.
Ranker is exploring other options to elevate the brand, but declined to share details. “They are still in the ideation phase,” Benson said. “But we consider the building signage a great first step towards that goal.”
Clarification: An earlier version of this post misstated the average engaged time on Ranker's website.
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