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Upworthy Raises Another $8 Million Round for Clickbait with a Mission. Sept 2013: 22 million monthly actives.


Stashed in: Reddit!, Awesome, Monetization, BuzzFeed!, Upworthy!, Active Users, startups, Viral Content

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Peter Kafka explains:

Can you build a successful website by repackaging work done by other people?

Of course you can!

What about building a successful website by repackaging other people’s work, in service of a “mission-driven” agenda?

Yup, you can do that, too.

Upworthy, which didn’t exist 18 months ago, now claims more than 22 million visitors a month, all drawn in by stuff that the site didn’t make itself. What Upworthy does do is attach a new headline to the story, or video, which it tests against dozens of other headlines it tries out for maximum clickability and shareability.

Then it sends its stuff through social networks, primarily Facebook. Boom: Near-instant success.

That kind of traffic story would get anyone noticed, but Upworthy gets a bit of extra attention because of its heritage. It is co-founded by Eli Pariser, the former managing director of MoveOn.org, and Peter Koechley, the former managing editor of The Onion. And it was initially backed by bold-faced angels including New Republic owner Chris Hughes and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

This new $8 million -- led by Spark Capital -- will enable them to monetize.

They've raised a total of $12 million.

That's exactly what Drudge does.  He edits the link text for maximum news effect thus "coloring" the story in it's own slant that otherwise wouldn't have drawn all that much attention.  It's an ingenious technique.  Who builds the headlines for Upworthy or are they crowd-sourced and darwin-ized? 

Upworthy has a set of employees who do nothing but A/B test headlines until they have the one that the most consumers have clicked on in testing. Then they push that live to the millions of people on the mailing list.

They will build revenue through sponsored content:

http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/16/meaningful-video-site-upworthy-closes-8m-will-build-revenue-through-sponsored-content/

What's fascinating is that Facebook seems to be the ONLY channel through which they spread.

They're not on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, LinkedIn, or Reddit the way that PandaWhale is.

In October of last year, Upworthy closed $4 million in seed funding from Chris Hughes of Facebook, Alexis Ohanian of Reddit, and BuzzFeed’s John Johnson. Spark, Catamount, Uprising, and Knight Foundation participated in this new $8 million round.

Video Site Upworthy Closes $8M Round, Will Build Revenue Through Sponsored Content | TechCrunch

Upworthy plans to use the money to double its staff (currently at 20):

http://www.fastcompany.com/3017405/fast-feed/upworthy-is-doubling-its-staff-after-8-million-series-a-funding-round

Anya Kamenetz of Fast Company writes:

Eli Pariser, one of the site's cofounders, says they'll use the new cash to roughly double their staff, with a focus on engineering, analytics, and business development, and to expand into new verticals. "We got a lot of proposals from investors to do Upworthy-TMZ or Upworthy-Quartz, which felt off-mission for us," he said. "We’re running a bunch of experiments in different areas right now, like parenting and global health."

The mix of investors--new media, mission-driven, nonprofit journalism--highlights the odd position Upworthy currently occupies. In the last eight weeks, subscribers to the site's daily newsletter are up to 4.5 million, while their biggest month saw 30 million unique visitors. In contrast to viral media sites like BuzzFeed or I Can Has Cheezburger, Upworthy focuses on content that has some social relevance, whether about gay marriage, cancer survival, or war. The connection may be tenuous or information-free, as in this 1992 antiwar George Carlin routine currently being promoted as a commentary on Syria, but at least there's an attempt at being high-minded.

Yet unlike BuzzFeed (again) or the Huffington Post, Pariser says Upworthy is unlikely to do its own reporting anytime soon, no matter how much money it gets. "It's not like people are like, 'the Internet is good but I wish it had more content,'" he says. "What's missing is trusted sources that say, 'here are some great links that will be entertaining and interesting and help you see the world in a better way.' That’s what we’re trying to do."

The crown jewel of Upworthy is its 4.5 million user daily email list.

Just like Groupon, Upworthy has trained millions of people to look forward to its email every day.

By the way, I called this financing on August 4 in TechCrunch:

http://techcrunch.com/2013/08/04/the-series-a-crunch-is-over-consumer-internet-is-back-baby/

To quote myself:

New Consumer Internet A rounds are happening quickly as investors earnestly search for the next Pinterest, Wanelo, Snapchat, or WhatsApp to invest in. In just the last month, Sulia raised a $10 million Series A, and RebelMouse raised a $10 million Series A. And that is DURING THE SUMMER! Can Upworthy’s $10 million Series A be far behind, now that they have more than 10 million monthly uniques?

Nice to see PandaWhale on AngelList... gotta A/B test the angels too.

You got that right Rob!

The main thing that turns me off about Upworthy is their focus on only uplifting videos. Living in a world where all you can do is Lik, Upvote, and +1 turns me off. It skips the tragedies happening in life and packages pain up in a sweet little video that makes you feel good, but ignores the importance of pain.

Then again maybe I'm short sighted and people simply "feeling" good is better for the world.

I think you're right that a balance is important to keep a healthy perspective on life.

Upworthy also makes me cringe whenever they put their "us vs them" MoveOn hat on.

I appreciate that they have strong liberal beliefs but their political shares often make me cringe.

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