Eighteen months since its launch, social media site Upworthy announced the receipt of USD8 million as equity investment for the company, The investors were led by Spark Capital, Cantamount Ventures, Uprising and the Knight Foundation.
The funds would be utilized for the the expansion of its team, expand to other editorial areas, build the business and provide new technology for its user experience. According to Upworthy co-founer Peter Koechley, "We think a number of these sections that we might want to delve more deeply into are sections that people may want to underwrite.
The founders are toying with the idea to create verticals, the site still maintains a single stream layout for the meantime.
Upworthy built a huge audience by repackaging and distributing other people’s content about social issues with a click-bait twist. Core to Upworthy’s original strategy is videos, which are getting four times as many views as the old curated ones. While all publishers are rushing to benefit from video’s ad dollars and time spent, Upworthy co-founder Peter Koechley insisted that wasn’t the site’s only motivation. Upworthy has defined itself by a data-driven approach, which continues to inform its strategy.
As a site that makes its money from advertising, though, Upworthy has to win over the buying community, too. Ben Kunz, vp of strategic planning at Mediassociates, said beyond differentiating its content, Upworthy also has to do the same for its audience, which is distributed fairly evenly across income and age groups. In March, a new start-up called Upworthy launched a site that promised to find viral content on important topics.


Upworthy told us it has raised $4 million from NEA and a collection of angel investors including BuzzFeed co-founder John Johnson, Facebook co-founder and New Republic owner Chris Hughes and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.
Traffic jumped over the past few months, said Upworthy co-founder Eli Pariser, the former executive director of MoveOn, who co-founded the site with Peter Koechley, former managing editor of The Onion.
Upworthy went from 2.5 million uniques in July to four million in August to six million in September. What’s interesting is that so far the major social referrers have been a smaller part of Upworthy than might have been thought. Even as it figures out the nuances of social sharing, Upworthy seems to be getting the jet boost of network effects that makes today’s sites grow faster than ever. Chung added that he wasn’t particularly worried about a business model for Upworthy, with multiple options available given the audience it has amassed. If there's a real alignment of sponsor section on a particular topic, we find the best content in the world on that topic and draw attention to it better than anyone else can, and it's great for our partner in those cases. Even if Upworthy is seeking to expand coverage of certain topics, the site does not plan to become a new source. But when a traffic plunge forced it to pivot, it was unclear if Upworthy could reinvigorate itself with original articles and videos.
As a sign of its commitment there, it just hired a new head of video Croi McNamara, a former producer at Thomson Reuters and Discovery Communications.
Before investing in a video, its editorial team may create a couple of text-based versions of stories to see which one the audience likes best.


The writing’s on the wall for viral publications that trade in curation because second-hand content has less staying power than original content, said Emil Panzarino, senior vp, digital media, programmatic and search, Assembly.
According to comScore, about half of Upworthy’s audience is 18-34, the rest being 35 and up. The site’s most significant breakout hit this month, according to Pariser, was a video it found of a news anchor responding to someone calling her fat. NEA is carving out a bit of a new media category along with other investments in BuzzFeed, SAY Media and Punch Media. She’s the latest high-profile hire to come on board as part of this pivot, which started with the hire of Amy O’Leary from The New York Times. It uses data on what stories are trending on its own site and elsewhere to guide its story choices. But buyers want to see evidence that the site is getting more repeat visits, not just one-and-done visitors drawn by its viral headline style. It is a fusion of different media styles, different topics, different formats and different sources. Different versions of stories are tested for shareability and emotional response before they’re published widely.



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