Introduced in 2011, the Google Chromebook came on to the tech scene offering a cloud-based laptop experience that makes use of Google's Chrome operating system. A product known for being relatively inexpensive and accessible, the Chromebook quickly became a hit in classrooms in the United States, with 25 million students and teachers using it for education in 2018, according to Google.
The Chromebook also became a point of interest for tech enthusiasts around the world. Robby Payne of Elizabethtown, a self-described "tech junkie," decided to turn his interest into a business.
Payne is founder and co-owner of Chrome Unboxed, a tech blog focused chiefly on Chrome products. Payne operates the business with Gabriel Brangers and Joseph Humphrey.
Payne said Chrome Unboxed originated in 2013 from a conversation with a friend. Observing his propensity to purchase the latest gadgets on the market, Payne's friend suggested turning his interest into a video series.
"He said, 'man, with the amount of stuff that you get, you should start a YouTube channel and start videoing this stuff,'" Payne said.
Payne began doing just that, creating a series of video reviews of Chrome products.
When Chromebooks began hitting the market, Payne said he felt a desire to try to perform his job as a web developer using only the Chrome operating system.
"That caused me to invest a lot of time figuring out the OS and what I could and couldn't do," he said. "We're used to 'download this and install this and do this' versus cloud services and web apps."
Payne said this knowledge of Chrome's OS allowed him to share expertise on its products and find a niche in the tech media market. However, Payne said the blog didn't take off until 2016, when Chromebooks began seeing an increase in popularity because of the development of Android app support on the device.
With these developments, Payne approached Brangers about collaborating on producing articles that same year. Humphrey later was added as a videographer for the blog.
Brangers said Payne has been an ideal collaborator for the project, as they share a strong affinity for Chrome products and tech news.
"When he decides to do or learn something new, he spends countless hours researching a given subject," Brangers said. "With Chromebooks, he committed to live entirely in the Chrome OS ecosystem and came out on the other side confident that the platform was capable of just about anything, including the masterful web work he has done over the past few years."
Soon after becoming a multimedia tech blog, the website began gaining traffic, acquiring 550,000 page views in December of 2016 alone, Payne said. He said the site averages about 500,000 to 750,000 page views each month and there are now bout 200,000 inbound links to the site.
The blog's YouTube channel has close to 60,000 subscribers with several videos bringing in hundreds of thousands of views. Payne said he and the Chrome Unboxed staff work to film a video every week and post multiple articles each day.
Major tech companies such as Google, Samsung and Acer have invited Payne and his staff to product roll-out events and news conferences in cities such as San Fransisco, Las Vegas and New York City.
An Elizabethtown native, Payne said it has been rewarding to produce content enjoyed by people all over the world without leaving in Hardin County.
"I love the fact that we can do this here," he said.
Payne also works as a web designer with Heartland Communications Consultants in Elizabethtown. An employee their since 2015, Payne said he is transitioning into a part-time position with the company to focus on Chrome Unboxed.
"They've been really cool about giving me the ability to cultivate Chrome Unboxed as a side hustle for a while now," he said.
Payne said he is excited to see where this growing endeavor will take him and his business partners.
"We love it so much that it just doesn't feel like work," he said.
Getting to know Robby Payne
Family: His wife. Tricia, son. Landon and daughter. Sydney.
Pets: Three cats named Chrome, Pickles and Windy.
Favorite music: Jon Bellion, James Morrison and Mute Math.
Favorite television show: "This Is Us," ''Better Call Saul" and "Seinfeld."
Favorite authors: Stephen King, Ted Dekker and Rick Yancey.
Favorite sports teams: Chicago Cubs and Kentucky Wildcats.
Hobbies: Spending time with family, playing guitar.