Rolling out the red carpet for the Middlesbrough company trusted by global brands
A busy newsroom. New York City. Oscars night 2021.
Editors have just hit the publish button to share worldwide news on a brand new tool for the first time. There is excitement in the air as the New York Post starts to bring its millions of captivated readers glitz and glamour updates from the showbiz event of the year.
More than 3,000 miles away in Middlesbrough, the excitement from the Big Apple has replaced an understandable amount of nerves.
From their contemporary and classy office on Albert Road, the team at Big Bite probably never imagined the Oscars countdown would mean so much to them. But the build-up to April’s red carpet event was peppered with deadlines for them to meet after the global publishing powerhouse News Corp chose the industry-leading firm to develop a new Liveblog tool for one of its biggest publications.
“We’ve worked with News Corp since November 2016 on various projects for the likes of New York Post, Wall Street Journal, The Times and more,” Big Bite’s head of client services, Phil Saunders remembers.
“It was awesome to see it there – live and performing perfectly on nypost.com in real time. And to think, it was built by our very own engineering team from Teesside”.
Big Bite was established in 2011 after friends Mark Goodyear, Jason Agnew and Iain McPherson met at Teesside University.
Since 2014 the team have concentrated on building custom solutions for some of the biggest brands in the world using the WordPress platform. Powering over 40% of the web, WordPress will be part of your daily online routine without you even realising.
“We were really excited for the Liveblog plugin as it was the first feature of its kind to be built with the WordPress Gutenberg editor. They were really happy with the finished product,” Phil says.
Big Bite has firmly cemented its place in the market and is one of only 14 WordPress Gold Partners in the world and more impressively, the only one in the UK.
“In layman’s terms, WordPress VIP exists to satisfy the needs of huge enterprise level organisations. Sites that are super high traffic or that have incredibly high needs in terms of security or functionality,” Phil says.
“They offer solutions for sites with hundreds, or even thousands, of internal users or publishers. Companies such as the New York Post or Wall Street Journal have thousands of journalists spread across various locations who need to get into the system every minute of the day to publish stories literally as they break.
“WordPress offers a really robust solution for that kind of high demand world, and our Gold status lets the world know that WordPress trusts Big Bite to build some of the most complex, yet most innovative solutions on the platform.”
Aside from their work underpinning worldwide publishing for millions of readers, Big Bite also proudly lists Amnesty International among its prestigious and influential clients.
Another recent client is Gumtree – the UK’s number one classified ads site used by half of the population each week. The new Gumtree Motors and Lifestyle sites were built by Big Bite just a few months ago.
Financial services and energy giant Octopus is also on Big Bite’s client list, as is a certain international banking institution which the team can’t actually speak about other than to say it has four letters and a red logo.
Phil is asked to explain in simple terms how this Middlesbrough company is making its mark around the globe.
“The knowledge across all of our team is absolutely phenomenal,” he says.
“We take WordPress and we will customise it, extend it, reshape it and push it to the limits for global brands which some companies can only dream to work with. We’re very lucky, but we also work extremely hard to achieve our goals.”
Pioneering. Innovative. And Middlesbrough to its core.
Big Bite is rightly fiercely proud of its backstory and its connections to the wider digital cluster in the town centre. It’s also playing its part in raising aspirations and creating well-paid, ambitious jobs in the heart of TS1.
Big Bite works with the High Tide Foundation and has offered digital work experience so local students can cut their teeth in a competitive industry. In addition, they also independently launched a six-month training academy in 2020 for those wanting to get started in the world of development.
Phil says: “We’ve been pushing that message that you don’t have to move to a big city to get an exciting and rewarding job in tech – it’s all available here on Teesside.
“In between eating Piejackers and going to Off the Ground for our coffee fix, we’re building some really exciting stuff.
“We’re not alone in this though. Just upstairs in 16-26 Albert Road and down the road in the Boho buildings there’s even more extremely talented people working on globally utilised software and household name video games that kids from around the world are obsessed with. It’s all Boro born.”
The future of Middlesbrough is important to Big Bite and their fellow tech firms leading the digital boom. More modern office space, a wider choice of town centre living and better connectivity to London, as well as even further afield to the world’s tech cities, are vital.
“One of the things that is key to this business and all of the digital businesses is hiring the right people,” Phil says.
“To tie in with We are Middlesbrough, Middlesbrough is the people. That’s what makes Middlesbrough as great as it is. We’d like to grow the team by another 10-15 people in the next few years, but we’re not going to go crazy. We love being an organisation where everyone knows each other and we don’t want to lose that. The key to us growing is Middlesbrough growing so that we can attract talent.
“The new generation of digital talent are going to want somewhere to buy a decent sandwich and even a nice coffee shop to work from. They’re going to want a really nice apartment close to town. They want nice offices with all the modern amenities.”
Big Bite’s success is in no small part down to the character and camaraderie of its team, which Phil believes represents the very best of Middlesbrough.
“Most global agencies like us are dispersed,” he says. “Due to the nature of the business and the ease of remote working, some might not even have an office. There’s definitely pros to that approach for some larger companies, but on the other hand for us, we still all love nothing more than getting together in our office and working face to face.
“We’re one of the few VIP Gold agencies who aren’t dispersed and if it wasn’t for Covid we’d still all be in one office, at least a few days a week. I just don’t think you can beat that interaction with your colleagues.
“When I first got introduced to our team and our clients a year and a half ago, it really came across that Big Bite was well loved. We’re honest and open, we care about the work that we do and we just say exactly how it is and that’s definitely a Boro thing, I think.
“We’re all on the same page. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, but everyone here works really hard and is really focused on a common goal.”
It’s that common goal for excellence, it seems fair to assume, that will continue prompting the biggest organisations from all corners of earth to roll out the red carpet for the world-class Big Bite.
We are words by Andrew Glover.
We are photos by Mike Sreenan and Cal Carey.