eBusiness Institute

How to turn your passion into a million dollar online business

Lessons From Building The Worlds Largest Strength Website [31 Million views]

David Tao from Barbend.com shares how you can turn your niche passion into a big online business… and then do a BIG Exit

Can you really make money from your passion, not to mention turn it into an 7 or 8-figure online empire?

That’s what David Tao has achieved and in this interview, he’s going to reveal how he turned his love for strength training into a hugely successful online business, which was recently acquired by a big website buyer.

Here’s some of what you’ll learn:

  • How do you grow to 31 Million readers and $19 Million in affiliate sales, (+ exit)… all in just 6 years!
  • How do you monetise very niche targeted audiences
  • How to establish expertise in any niche passion
  • What skills you need to grow a content website
  • When to produce news content vs evergreen content (and what you need to scale)
  • The key challenges of scaling a 7 or 8 figure online business fast
  • Why CONTENT is your product when you have a passion website

And much much more. Watch the interview or read the article to hear David’s insights and learn how you can turn your passion income a real business.

If you have a goal to build a 7 or 8 figure online business, then see how David Tao scaled his website to over 31 million views and $19 Million in sales!

Matt Raad:      Hi, I’m Matt Raad from the Digital Investor Podcast. And today, we have a very special guest, David Tao from Barbend.com.

David is an ultra-high achiever and has successfully exited a very large niche passion site. Just like myself, David is very passionate about niche passion sites. We had a really good chat about how they work and what he’s been able to do.

So, if you have a goal for a seven or eight-figure website, then this is an article you need to read. David has kindly agreed to come along and share the steps that it took him to get to that point.

He’s just exited one of the world’s leading passion sites, I would say. And not only has he exited it, but he grew that within just six years.

How David Tao turned his passion in Strength Training to online success

Matt:               David, your story is seriously impressive. High fives to you, your co-founders, and to your acquirers. I also want to thank you for coming along to speak to us about your journey and what it took to grow that site.

Can you tell us, first and foremost, the awesome niche that you decided to build your website in all those years ago?

David Tao:      Thank you so much for having me, Matt. I’m always excited to talk about this because I picked the niche based on my passion.

I was a competitive strength athlete, a weightlifter, and a CrossFitter for years. I was also a professional journalist, writer and editor. And I really got to combine those two passions.

How David started his niche weightlifting blog

David:             The company I co-founded was my idea. I remember buying the URL for about $7. It’s called BarBend.com. So, we own BarBend and Breaking Muscle. The company was acquired about three months ago, so we’re still in that transition phase, and I’m still very much with the company.

I always wanted a place where I could get the latest and greatest news on strength training, strength sports, opinions, what the research says, etc. I didn’t just want to know what was going on in weightlifting. I wanted what was going on in weightlifting and powerlifting and CrossFit and strongman.

Not that long ago, back in early 2016, you couldn’t get the results from the world’s Strongest Man competition until months after the competition was over. Because it was a TV broadcast, no one was really writing on it.

Today, we’re deep in Web 2.0 and everything is more accessible on demand. But what I found was if I wanted to figure out what the Powerlifting world records were or what was going on in weightlifting, there was no place to go for that. There were these little forums on the web, and sometimes you had to go to a newsstand and buy the old muscle magazines to get results.

In 2016, there were people who had blogs online or were posting on social media. But there wasn’t one single place that conglomerated all this great information. There was no home for people who were really interested in lifting weights and getting stronger online.

He saw the opportunity to fill a gap within the niche with helpful content & current news events

David:             I’m really passionate about this. It brings me a lot of energy. So, I went to my co-founders and said, I think this is worth investing in because there are people like me out there. I bet we can make a successful website.

We didn’t know how successful it would become and how much it would grow. But I thought then that we could build something and maybe get a couple of million readers a year. I thought that would be really fun.

Matt:               Just a modest goal, David! 🙂

David:             Yes, just a modest goal at the time. But you know what? Spoiler alert – we grew way beyond our ambitions. We had over 31 million readers in 2022. So, that’s a little bit beyond a couple million.

And today, we really are the home for strength training online. So, if you want news about what’s happening, or the latest research, or a “how to” about nutrition, recovery, or product reviews, we’re the place for it.

David’s future vision is building the world’s largest fitness media company

David:             I’ll just get ahead of the curve here. Nothing is keeping my founders and me there, right? We don’t have to stay. The acquisition was not contingent on us staying. But we’re still there because we feel that if we keep putting work into this with the amazing team we have (and now with more resources), in a couple of years, this is going to be the biggest fitness site online.

I really want to get up in the morning and be able to say that I founded the world’s largest fitness media company. Not just strength media, but fitness media. As someone who grew up reading Men’s Health and muscular development, it would be really cool to say I did that.

I know it’s really arrogant to say, but it gets me motivated. And I’m as excited as ever, even post-acquisition, because I absolutely love the niche.

Matt:               This makes perfect sense because now you’re going to the next level of your journey.

You’ve got the resources behind you, and sometimes we have to do that. We have to sell out to a big player to give us the resources to go for your real goal. Hey, why not?! Let’s go for the world’s biggest fitness site! And it all started from a small, passion blog idea.

How David monetises his passion niche website for a very targeted audience

Matt:               You just mentioned the size of it now. Before we go into it, I just want our readers to realise how awesome this is and what you guys have achieved here. I mean, talk about being competitive!

With 31 million readers, what sort of sales do you do? And can you explain what GMV means?

David:             We monetise in a few different ways. And I will say that if you’re starting a niche website, you should look at a few different ways to monetise. That’s because we’re at the mercy of the algorithms, so you want to diversify your revenue streams where possible.

Monetisation method #1: Adverting

David:             We have enough traffic where we can monetise via programmatic ads, but we don’t share those numbers specifically.

Matt:               That’s fine.

David:             Some people can probably guess those numbers and have actually guessed quite closely.

Matt:               Based on your traffic, my guess would be it starts with “A” and ends with “lot”.

David:             If you’re smart, you can narrow it down, but we don’t share those numbers.

So, we monetise with direct advertising. We have newsletters, podcasts, and articles, and companies can sponsor those directly. We monetise that way as well.

Monetisation method #2: Affiliate Marketing

David:             Another way we monetise is via affiliate revenue, which is something that shouldn’t be a mystery to anyone reading this article. But if it is a mystery, I’m about to tell you a little bit more about it.

The power of affiliate revenue – David created over $19 million in sales for his affiliate partners!

David:             So, we make a commission when we drive sales to partners. Obviously, we disclose and disclaim this. Our review content has its own editorial team. That’s how seriously we take it, and that’s separate from other editorial content. But it has its own disclaimers and standards.

In 2022, we drove over $19 million in merchandise sales for our affiliate partners, and we make a portion of that.

We’re now a Pillar4 Media company within its fitness vertical. And I think we’re on track to do close to $100 million in GMV (gross merchandise value).

To drive close to $100 million in sales across the Pillar4 fitness vertical this year is super exciting. We’re playing at a big scale now.

How To Raise Funds For A Fast Growing Online Business

Matt:               How old are you, David?

David:             I’m 33. And I don’t feel a day over 45! 🙂

Matt:               We’ll get into that in a minute, but congratulations. Did you ever think, say 10 years ago, in your early twenties when you were into strength training, that this would one day lead to $100 million in sales?

David:             I didn’t. And I want to be clear, the $100 million is across all Pillar4 Media’s properties.

Matt:               You’re an integral part of that company. But in your own blog, you did $20 million?

David:             Yes, and it’s a bit surreal.

To be honest, I got my start in content in the start-up realm at a time when everyone thought they could become billionaires overnight. These were the days when Snapchat was getting off the ground, and Facebook was IPO’ing. Everyone thought they had the next billion-dollar idea. But it turns out a lot of those companies didn’t do so well.

David needed to transition from bootstrapping to raising funds for expansion

David:             I want to share something for your readers who are potentially thinking about really going in on building a digital media property or a website.

When we started BarBend in 2016, we got some early traction. We decided we were going to try and raise money because BarBend wasn’t profitable until 2020. We had four years of not being profitable and we knew it was going take a while to get there.

So, we bootstrapped as much as we could, but eventually we didn’t have money to scale. We raised our seed round and wanted to raise about $1 million.

Why Venture Capitalists didn’t want to invest in a niche content site…

David:             We went to dozens of institutional investors, specifically venture capitalists. But it didn’t go well because people were not looking at niche content sites.

People said, “Well, we want BuzzFeed, or we want to invest in Vice Media.” Spoiler alert – Vice Media is now bankrupt and BuzzFeed’s stock price is worth a whole lot less money than they initially raised.

I’m not saying those are bad companies. They’ve done amazing things, and they pushed the envelope.

…Instead, they raised $800k from friends and family

David:             We had a heck of a time raising money and we ended up having to go with a friends and family round. We ended up raising about $800,000, and that was through really begging people.

We knew some people in the fitness industry but they didn’t believe in the idea. We were not able to raise the money we thought we could, and we couldn’t raise from the types of investors we thought we could.

The importance of timing when raising funds for niche passion sites

David:             I just want to point out that ultimately our investors did very well. They’re very happy. It just so happened to be that the conventional wisdom at the time did not predict the future. Right?

So, for those of you who are out there, and if you fundamentally disagree, I’m not saying who’s right or wrong, but if you fundamentally disagree with a business proposition or outlook that a certain group of people have, they might be wrong. And you might be right.

We got lucky. They were wrong, and we were right. I’m not going say we predict the future all the time, but I think with the digital landscape, things can change. And especially with niche content, it’s very tough to predict how big an audience can be, or how big an audience can grow.

In our case, there are a lot more people interested in lifting weights than when we started in 2016.

Matt:               You’ve raised a few interesting questions there in my mind, David. I’m a professional investor (Angel Investor) and we look at companies like yours.

It’s interesting when we connected, you told me how difficult it was. The VC’s didn’t want to touch you because in 2016 they didn’t see the value. Whereas for all our readers here, we’re all passionate about passion niche websites. We have sites in very specific vertical niches, such as weight loss, weightlifting, dog training. Basically, anything to do with health, food blogs etc.

How David grew BarBend from a Lifestyle Business to a 6-7- 8-figure Online Success

Matt:               There is something going on here with you because just like most of our listeners, particularly our successful graduates; they’re really good at buying and building passion sites, getting them profitable, and earning good income.

One of the people we interviewed here is James Delacey about his strength and training sites. As you know, he makes about $10,000 to $20,000 a month, and he wants to grow that as well.

So, that’s our typical type of client who is making $10,000 to $20,000 a month off these niche passion sites. And as you know, that’s really good money. It’s good for someone working at home by themselves.

But here’s where it gets really interesting for anyone who wants to go to seven or eight figures. You’re sitting right in front of me and you’ve done that. So, what’s the difference?

Because you obviously spotted an opportunity and decided to pursue it, even if it meant walking away from a profitable venture that could have earned you $10,000 to $20,000 per month. It’s an impressive income, especially for someone working from home.

However, you and your team chose to take a different path. You saw a real chance for growth and long-term success. I’m curious, what factors contributed to your confidence in pursuing this route of raising funds, and aiming for profitability in the long run?

The 2 main factors that helped David recognise the potential to grow BarBend.com

Matt:               I think it’s important for our readers to understand the journey that led you to this point.

Many aspiring entrepreneurs may be reading this, hoping to achieve success in the seven and eight-figure range. For their benefit, it would be great to know some of the steps you took to get here. Also, considering you had co-founders, what were the key factors that fuelled your drive to accelerate your progress with this site?

Your experience could serve as an inspiration and guide for others who want to achieve similar milestones. So, can you please share some insights of what contributed to that success?

Factor #1: Spikes in traffic occurred around certain sporting events

David:             When we started BarBend.com, I was the one writing all the articles. At that time, we hadn’t decided to raise funds yet.

However, what really got me interested was a series of strength sports events in 2016, which led to massive spikes in website traffic. Suddenly, we were receiving 60,000 visitors per day for some of these events, or perhaps even more.

I recall thinking, “Wait a minute, there’s a considerable interest in our content, and it’s all happening organically. People are finding and enjoying our articles.”

Factor #2: Backlinks grew organically from major online websites

David:             This discovery was further reinforced by the fact that we were being linked as a primary source on Wikipedia pages. And mainstream media outlets were linking to us because our writing had a journalistic flair that was hard to find elsewhere.

David transformed major event success into everyday traffic growth

David:             These spikes in traffic convinced us that we need to start pursuing this more seriously.

One of these events was the World’s Strongest Man in 2016. It was also an Olympic year, and so the Rio Olympics presented another opportunity. I remember writing recaps of every weightlifting session at the Rio Olympics—there were 16 sessions for men and 16 for women that year.

We were quick to publish the results, even ahead of NBC, the official broadcaster for the Olympics in the US. This led Wikipedia editors to consider us as a reliable primary source, which resulted in more links to our content.

We made sure to cite our sources and provide background information about the athletes, offering valuable context to our readers. This approach really helped our readers and drove further engagement on our site.

BarBend.com became a leading website in the strength sports community all year round…

David:             Seeing the potential in these results, we realised that BarBend.com could become more than just a lifestyle business. While there’s nothing wrong with lifestyle businesses, my co-founders and I had previously experimented with them with some success—as you say, generating $10,000 to $20,000 per month.

But the early traffic spikes on this site showed us a new opportunity. Although it involved some risk, we explored the possibility of transforming what was our most successful days into an everyday reality.

We believed that if people were showing increased interest on event days, then surely, they would also be interested by other strength-related topics throughout the year. We also believed that the community of people who are interested in strength sports would continue to grow year-on-year.

This became the pivotal moment for us. Those events—the World’s Strongest Man, the CrossFit Games, and the Rio Olympics in that particular year—were like a clear sign, signalling that we can do this.

Matt:               Yes, so behind the scenes, you guys were witnessing something interesting.

Despite being in what may seem like a very specific niche (strength training) you were experiencing much larger traffic than anticipated, especially during certain events. And realising this led you to consider a much bigger opportunity.

How the founders of BarBend’s digital skills helped them create a multi-million dollar business

HINT: It’s simpler than you think! 🙂

Matt:               Another point worth mentioning is your background. It’s essential for people to understand your experiences before starting the blog. Could you share how it all began and how your unique skill sets, as well as those of your co-founders, played an important role in this journey?

Many of our readers are just starting their own portfolio of websites. So, it would be valuable for them to understand what’s involved and also what’s possible if you want to go big with this.

David:             I had a background in editorial, beginning my career as a business journalist right after college. I also had a passion for competitive weightlifting. So I love this stuff.

Interestingly, I even co-owned a gym—part of a CrossFit gym in New York—for a couple of years before BarBend’s inception, which placed me right within that fitness community.

David had a passionate start with his editorial and fitness background

David:             In the past, I had also worked on writing assignments for the CrossFit Games website, back when it was quite different from what it is today. So, my writing experiences extended to various fitness-related sites, including some business of fitness pieces for forbes.com.

As a result, I had a strong editorial skillset, which allowed me to churn out a substantial amount of content myself. I was optimistic that we would have enough material to see if this idea could work and gain traction. However, I acknowledged that this approach was not entirely scalable since there’s only so much content I could produce on my own.

His co-founders have skills in Website Building, SEO and Digital Marketing

David:             My co-founders, on the other hand, had significant backgrounds in SEO and the technical aspects of website optimisation, focusing on speed, visual appeal, and SEO performance. They also had valuable expertise in both advertisement and affiliate marketing.

So, this combination of skill sets complemented each other perfectly, paving the way for BarBend’s success.

How building websites for local businesses can accelerate your success with passion sites

Matt:               This sounds like a lot of our graduates from our Champions course, who are at the point where they’re running their own Digital Agency and building websites for local businesses.

David:             Well, we actually met while working on an SEO project for the University of California’s medical school system. It involved me as a content consultant and my partners handling the SEO and backend aspects.

During this project, we realised that our skill sets complemented each other perfectly. I had a knack for building content systems and teams, while they excelled at SEO and backend work.

Seeing the potential in this collaboration, we decided to merge our experiences together. They already had a few clients and were running smaller affiliate sites at the time. So, they proposed that I join as a partner, and I agreed.

But I also had another idea to bring in more work for us, and some of those additional sites were later exited between 2019 and 2020. Eventually, we went all-in on BarBend, focusing our efforts solely on its growth and success.

David used the cash flow from the agency to fund BarBend.com until it grew enough to become the main project…

During that time, we had sites at various levels of success, ranging from those making $10,000 to $20,000 a month to larger sites like BarBend. And we’ve successfully exited from some of these ventures.

So, our complementary skill sets proved to be highly beneficial for BarBend’s development. The fact that we already had revenue-positive sites and were still doing client work meant that as BarBend gained traction, we could gradually phase out the client work and focus entirely on our main project.

Matt:               Which is what we did. David, thank you so much for that, because that’s what our readers want to see.

So, we teach our students cashflow strategies by building a portfolio of websites. They also do some agency work, helping local businesses, which teaches them valuable skills.

On a larger scale, you initially did something similar with your three co-founders. You started with affiliate sites and lifestyle businesses. But as you grew, you focused more on the big winner—BarBend—while exiting other smaller sites. What a fantastic journey.

How to scale your team when building a 7 and 8 figure online business

Matt:               David, you were a driving force behind BarBend, and your passion for the site is evident. Can you take us back to 2016 and share what it was like at that time? How many articles did you start pumping out to get the site to lift off and make it successful? Your dedication was impressive, so I’d love to hear more about those early days.

David:             I was personally writing more than 30 articles a week during certain periods. It was quite a lot and a real slog. To be honest, I couldn’t do it again. It wasn’t scalable or sustainable. It just wasn’t something I could keep up with forever.

That’s when I realised fundraising was crucial. It would allow us to unlock the potential to hire people and scale the business. We needed to grow beyond what I could manage alone.

Even so, I’m grateful for that time. Someone in a marketing group recently asked me about the cost of our content when we started. And you know what? It was my time. My time was the marginal cost of our content back then.

Step 1: Find experienced writers who are passionate about your niche

David:             But things have changed since then. Now we have a team of over 20 full-time staff members, paid freelancers, and contributors from all over the world. We’ve diversified our content with experts ranging from Olympic gold medalists to researchers and coaches. Our cost of content has evolved significantly.

At the beginning, we didn’t have much money to test things out. So, we doubled down on my knowledge and passion for the niche. I was a big nerd for all things strength-related, and that enthusiasm drove our early efforts.

Matt:               I’m building up a picture in my mind of you and your team.

You bootstrapped everything in that first year, but you had these other websites and online businesses that were helping to cashflow things. But basically, it was your time at first.

Step 2: Hire editors to produce your content

Matt:               Who were your first hires? Who were you mainly getting on board? A couple of writers? What was that next step?

David:             Writers and editors. It was a question of, “How can we grow our editorial capacity?” Those were our only hires for the first three or four years.

Matt:               So, for our readers, that’s exactly what we teach you.

The number one bottleneck in this game is getting writers and editors to produce constant content.

As you progress into the second, third, and fourth years, the demand for content increases.

When you initially launched, you were churning out an impressive 30 articles a week. Well done! Considering all the other responsibilities you had, like managing other sites and your own training, that’s seriously impressive.

Why it’s important to produce in-depth evergreen content on your website

Matt:               As you started hiring a few editors in the second and third year, I’m curious about what the velocity of articles was like back then, and how it impacted your website traffic. Can you take us back to that time and share your experience? It’s always fascinating to see how things evolve over the years.

David:             Yes so, in our first year, we had around 1.4 million readers, and it was mostly organic traffic.

Speaking of content velocity, I don’t believe it’s the best metric for us, and let me explain why. When we first started, I was solely focused on news content, and I was producing a lot of it.

However, as our team grew and evolved, our content strategy changed. Now we produce more content overall, but not as many articles per week as before.

The reason is that we shifted towards creating evergreen, in-depth pieces that we consider the best in their niche. For instance, writing a concise 500-word news recap is vastly different from crafting the ultimate guide on how to deadlift. The latter requires more time and effort, especially when we include multimedia elements like original videos and gifs.

Over the years, we’ve expanded our reach and delved into more evergreen content, such as reviews. While we began with a narrow focus on strength news, we gradually broadened our content scope to encompass a broader fitness and wellness content.

Going sub-niche first and then growing from there has proven to be a successful approach for us.

It allowed us to establish our expertise in a specific domain and then leverage that foundation to expand into related areas.

David shares the key challenge of growing an 8 figure business

Matt:               Some of our readers who are lifestyle bloggers. They’re making good money, but they might be deciding, “Do we go to the next level?” And so, hearing your story could make them think, “Okay, this is what it takes.”

With that in mind, what are there any key lessons you learned, David, from that time?

Obviously, it must have required a lot of hard work in those early days. But did it become easier as you brought on more editors? Or did the challenges continue to mount?

Navigating People Management when growing your website beyond a lifestyle business

What actually happens when your traffic reaches seven and eight figures? Did it bring significant changes to your personal experience?

David:             The challenges have evolved over time because as BarBend grew, new issues emerged. In the early days, people management wasn’t a concern. But as our team expanded, it became an important aspect to handle.

I wasn’t the CEO to start with. Actually, we didn’t have a CEO until 2020. By that point, we had reached a size where an executive structure was necessary. I stepped into the role of CEO, and one of my co-founders, Kenny Klein, took on the position of President, now overseeing the fitness vertical at Pillar4 Media.

Having this structured approach brought about different challenges. Now, it’s about keeping our team motivated and empowered to excel in their roles. We focus on nurturing a positive and supportive work environment, allowing everyone to bring their best to the table. Our aim is to help each team member thrive and contribute their expertise effectively.

Managing a growing team requires new skills and strategies, and it’s been an essential part of BarBend’s journey.

When it comes to passion niche websites – CONTENT is your product

Matt:               And it was still the same business model though? Just get really good content onto the website – that’s the fundamental way you’ve grown this business.

Is that pretty much the business model still to this day?

David:             Yes. I get asked a lot of questions across different podcasts.

People typically ask, “When are you going to start selling products? When are you going to have BarBend-branded products?” Well, content is our product.

Matt:               That’s right.

What is the true value and impact of content?

David:             Our product is content, and we monetise it in a number of ways.

Honestly, I’m not ruling out the possibility of ever having a BarBend-branded products. In the past, we did sell weightlifting belts for a while. We found a vendor who made custom, handmade leather belts that we loved, and you could buy those on our website. They had the BarBend logo on them, which was pretty cool.

However, we eventually stopped selling them years ago. It was more of a fun experiment than a long-term product focus. Selling a couple of belts per day was interesting, but our real expertise lies in content creation, not running an inventory, warehouse, or fulfillment centre.

Our strength is building editorial and content teams. We’ve honed the ability to create high-quality content, and that is our core product.

Monetising content isn’t always straightforward; it’s not a simple transaction where you write an article, and money immediately comes in.

However, the power and value of content can grow over time, as many of your readers probably know.

Treating our content like a product allows us to focus on producing the best possible material for our audience. It’s about delivering value and building lasting relationships with our readers.

Matt:               When you think about it, BarBend is more than just a website; it’s a product, a brand that David and his team have invested in over the last six years. It has become an incredibly valuable asset, attracting attention from big aggregators who eventually acquired them.

So, if you’re reding this article, know that you have the potential to build a valuable asset too. It’s about harnessing your knowledge and expertise and transforming it into a brandable online asset.

How passion-driven websites can become highly-valuable assets

Matt:               And David, when you look around in this niche, there are some traditional media companies who are being replaced by people like us and yourself. Individuals who are creating these focused websites that have become a powerful way to make an impact. So, what have you seen or what are your thoughts around this?

I want to inspire our readers to see the potential in creating niche sites. From starting with small lifestyle passion sites to now working on a massive platform like BarBend.com, you have experienced this journey firsthand. And you’ve realised that building these websites can be an incredibly valuable and rewarding endeavour.

So, for someone just starting out, what are your thoughts there? What would you say to someone doing that?

David:             I would say it’s okay to approach a niche that you are personally passionate about.

I think there is an opinion out there that if you personally love the niche or space, it blinds you and makes it difficult for you to be objective about the space.

But I actually think one of the most powerful things in niche content is authenticity.

Matt:               Awesome.

David:             I truly think that. And if you can be authentic, that means a heck of a lot.

Matt:               And, and so for you, being a power lifter and into weightlifting, that’s the roots of this whole business that you’ve built up. It’s your personal passion for the topic.

David:             Exactly. That is my mark of authenticity. And as someone who’s producing the original content for BarBend, that hopefully can be felt or sensed by our readers, and that is really valuable.

The Website Exit – WHY Barbend.com was acquired by a media company

…and why it’s so important to network with big players in your niche…

Matt:               So, what’s next for you? I know you said you want to build this into the world’s biggest fitness site.

If we look back over your journey, you started out quite niche. But then you broadened it and were acquired by Pillar4 Media. Can you tell us a little bit about how they acquired you? How did they discover you guys?

David:             We already had a relationship with Pillar4, and we’ve been closely following their approach.

What stood out to us was how they prioritise building genuine brand-first media companies. They aren’t interested in empty brands or cutting corners. They’re transparent, putting their people at the forefront.

If you visit Pillar4’s site, you can see the companies they own. Unlike many sites where it’s hard to figure out who’s behind the scenes, Pillar4 is all about openness. They treat their ventures as real companies with real people, and they take pride in building and growing brands.

The ultimate outcome – why Pillar 4’s acquisition was the perfect fit for BarBend.com

When Pillar4 presented us with an offer, there were a couple of important aspects:

1./ The financials aligned well, providing a favourable outcome for everyone involved, including the investors we had an obligation to.

2./ And more importantly, they wanted to retain our entire team, not dismantle the website for parts.

Their vision was clear—they saw BarBend’s potential for growth and were eager to fuel that progress.

After the acquisition, one of the first moves was to hire more team members, which was incredibly encouraging. The mindset of adding fuel to the engine was impactful, and they have backed their words with action.

My experience at Pillar4 has been truly enjoyable, especially with the increased resources and support. There’s no more dealing with all the HR questions alone. Now, I can turn to dedicated people for that.

It’s easy to see Pillar4’s commitment to seeing BarBend grow, and that aligns perfectly with our original goal. So, we are excited to have more resources to continue expanding BarBend and Breaking Muscle. This acquisition has provided an ideal home for our brands, and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

What does David Tao’s role in BarBend look like post-acquisition?

Matt:               And so, what’s your day-to-day life like now? Are you still just really focused on content? What does it look like now that you’ve been acquired by a big buyer?

I’m sure you’ve got different obligations too. It’s not just to investors, but you’ve got an obligation to Pillar4 Media.

David:             I’ve got a lot of bosses now!

Matt:               What’s everyday life like for you?

David:             Well, doing interviews like this is definitely a highlight of my week. I see it as part of my work, and technically, I’m on the clock.

Getting the chance to talk about BarBend brings me a lot of joy. I love sharing the BarBend story in fresh and exciting ways, both within the fitness industry and beyond. Even though this isn’t solely a fitness podcast, we still get to discuss our accomplishments, the ongoing projects, and what we’re proud of. It’s a great opportunity, and I’m eager to do more of it, both in and outside the fitness space.

Also, with the new resources at our disposal, we’re diving back into the video space, which is an area we had to pause a couple of years ago.

I continue to host the BarBend podcast, and there are even plans to launch new podcast properties soon.

It’s exciting to be working on new initiatives and collaborating with our new team members. While we’re focused on growing our written content, we also aim to expand our multimedia presence. Integrating these elements has been a lot of fun.

Talking about BarBend, sharing our journey, and offering insights into how we achieved success, it’s a true highlight for me every week. And starting off the week with a recording like this on a Monday afternoon is fantastic. I get a lot of energy from doing these interviews.

By the way, I think you’re ahead of my time, Matt, So while you’re recording this on a Tuesday, it’s still Monday for me. I get so much energy from these types of conversations.

Matt:               And in a way, you are the brand ambassador for BarBend and you’ve got unlimited resources behind you.

What does Pillar4 Media specialise in?

Matt:               What does Pillar4 Media do? Is it involved in other verticals?

David:             Yes, so it’s the 4 Pillars of Wellness – Fitness, Sleep, Nutrition, and Mental Health.

Some verticals are more developed. They actually started in the sleep space, and then moved into fitness.

Pillar4 is still a young company. It started around 2017-2018. But it’s growing very quickly as they expand into other pillars of wellness.

I’m not sure how many employees they have now. But when I met Pillar4 back in 2020, they’re much bigger now than they were back then. There are a lot of new faces, which is really cool. And I’m excited and really enjoying my time there.

Matt:               That is awesome, David. And your enthusiasm for this and what you’ve done over the last six years is infectious.

So, I do want to say a big congratulations. Particularly seeing your journey and what you’ve built in the niche of strength training and weightlifting. You’ve owned other portfolio websites (lifestyle blogs) which you’ve used to create cash flow, and you’ve gone out there and raised funds. You’ve done the whole journey.

And a big thank you for sharing with our Australian audience, how you’ve been able to build a really big site in a very specific passion niche.

David:             Thanks so much for having me, Matt. I had a really great time.

Want to learn how you can build a portfolio of money-making passion sites?

Matt:               For those of you who are new to this and want to learn how to achieve what David has accomplished, I encourage you to watch our free masterclass. At eBusiness Institute, we teach a similar strategy of building passion sites. You’ll learn how to build out a portfolio of websites, so just like David, it could one day lead to millions of views and sales.