Arnold Kim: the Richmonder who started MacRumors

Back in 2000, while studying to become a doctor, Arnold Kim created a website to track Apple news and rumors as hobby. That website is now valued at $52 million. Giving up medicine, this Richmonder is the source for people across the world to get their Apple fix.

Millions of people across the globe compulsively checked the Web and Twitter when Apple announced the new iPad on March 7th. Among those who eagerly awaited the tech company’s presentation was a noteworthy person in the Apple community. His website devoted to Apple news and rumors had more page views in the month of February than the entire population of California and Texas combined. The website is MacRumors, and its founder is Richmonder Arnold Kim.

Raised in Newport News, Kim took computer programming classes in high school and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Columbia University. In 1996, he began medical school at MCV. On February 24, 2000, he launched MacRumors to gather news about Apple and its computers–years before the iPod, iPhone, or iPad were introduced. “I would follow the Apple news and rumors even then,” said Kim. “The Web was a very different thing,” in those days said Kim, reflecting on how few websites and blogs (a word that had yet to enter the contemporary lexicon) devoted themselves to the Apple. A hobby for him when not studying to become a doctor, Kim said that he never intended for MacRumors to supersede his medical aspirations.

With MacRumors online, Kim continued his medical training in South Carolina. As part of a fellowship, he returned to Richmond in 2004 where he (now Doctor Kim) served as a physician for a pathology group. All the while, MacRumors continued to grow.

The site remained resilient amid the bursting of the Dot-com Bubble in 2000, when other sites were forced to severely downsize, or simply became defunct. Running MacRumors as a hobby, Dr. Kim had no employees to pay and was not dependent upon revenue from the site’s operation to sustain a living (the first three years of the site did not feature advertising as a central component). While many other websites were either struggling or going under, Dr. Kim said he “was able to build an audience” steadily. Part of that consistent growth came in no small part from Apple itself.

In 2001, the company launched the iPod. The line of portable MP3 players, along with the creation of the digital music store, iTunes, energized the company’s stock and prominence among the population (over 200 million iPods have been sold worldwide since its creation). More people began using Apple products. Furthermore, more people wanted to discuss those Apple products. One of the most successful components of MacRumors’s popularity is the many forums it offers for people to communicate with one another.

In 2003-04, Dr. Kim said that “things started picking up again” for websites still reeling after the Dot-com crash. Google’s AdSense program allowed website owners to capitalize on page views without having to market their website—either by themselves or by hiring a professional. Not only had MacRumors become an essential site for Apple rumors and news, but now Dr. Kim was able to earn revenue from the site’s ever-increasing traffic.

With the announcement of the iPhone in 2007, Apple cornered an additional market beyond digital music and personal computers. Now dealing with computer hardware, iPods, and the new iPhone, MacRumors further benefited from Apple’s rise. In February 2008, Dr. Kim left medicine and began working on MacRumors full-time.

This year, MacRumors had 71 million page views in the month of February alone (Dr. Kim said that on days when Apple announces a new product, such as the recent iPad, the site can expect as much as double the amount of typical daily page views). Not only has MacRumors’s traffic grown, but so has the number of people working on the website. Dr. Kim now employs: one full-time writer, one freelance writer, two full-time programmers, a part-time business manager, and someone devoted to customer support. While some of his employees work remotely three employees are Richmond-based. He recently finalized plans to take over an office space in the West End, the first time MacRumors has ever had a base of operation beyond a remote computer screen. “We’re growing,” affirmed Dr. Kim, who said he hopes “to try and keep growing” well into the future.

Last October, the website 247WallStreet named MacRumors one of the  most valuable blogs in America, appraising the website at $52 million. Despite the high value, and previous interest from buyers to purchase the site from him, Dr. Kim said that he doubts he will ever part with MacRumors: “It’s hard to imagine me selling it.”

Not content with managing one website, Dr. Kim has also started a website devoted to iOS gaming called Touch Arcade and an app tracking site named AppShopper. While not as popular as MacRumors, Dr. Kim said that “we’re seeing growth” in both sites. He also plans to launch other sites that are not Apple-related in the future, although he didn’t want to go into the details of what he is planning. While keeping some of his business plans secrect, one thing that he’s not hiding is his plan to remain in the city.

“My wife and I both like Richmond,” said Dr. Kim, “We are settled and happy here.”

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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