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Upworthy’s recently launched promoted posts are a resounding success

Over just three months, “pro­mot­ed posts” (native adver­tis­ing) on NY start­up Upwor­thy have out­per­formed the site’s stan­dard edi­to­r­i­al posts.

Adver­tis­ing as mean­ing­ful posts

Every busi­ness devel­op­ment man­ag­er in Adland now knows that Upworthy’s spe­cial­i­ty is get­ting vis­i­tors to click on entic­ing head­lines and send the con­tent viral by shar­ing. With 10 mil­lion unique vis­i­tors in June alone, this NYC start­up is cer­tain­ly going places; and with brand adver­tis­ing through “pro­mot­ed posts” putting in such a strong per­for­mance, the tra­jec­to­ry is def­i­nite­ly up.

Resem­bling its NY neigh­bor Buz­zFeed in some respects, Upwor­thy curates and repack­ages select­ed con­tent through clev­er­ly craft­ed head­lines that just beseech you to share them. But as well-informed busi­ness devel­op­ment man­agers will be aware, Upworthy’s dis­tin­guish­ing fea­ture is its empha­sis on mean­ing­ful posts, as opposed to tit­il­lat­ing tit­tle-tat­tle or per­son­al­i­ty quizzes.

Now, that might have posed a prob­lem for those inter­est­ed in the arts of dri­ving online adver­tis­ing sales. But three months ago, Unilever became the first big brand to work with Upwor­thy on its new “Col­lab­o­ra­tions” pro­gram, with a native adver­tis­ing cam­paign con­sist­ing of pro­mot­ed posts and curat­ed con­tent to pro­mote the “Project Sun­light” ini­tia­tive. This aimed at encour­ag­ing peo­ple to live sus­tain­ably in Unilever’s terms, “cre­ate a brighter future for chil­dren.”

Since then, clev­er­ly craft­ed pro­mot­ed con­tent on the site has tak­en off – like this live­ly video for Proc­tor & Gamble’s Cov­er Girl, head­lined “Ellen, Katy Per­ry, And A Hock­ey Play­er Walk Into An Ad And Shat­ter A Ridicu­lous Argu­ment.” The brands pro­vide the con­tent, usu­al­ly a video, and Upworthy’s edi­tors pack­age them with their inim­itable head­lines, labelling them clear­ly as ads in the process.

Native’s big suc­cess

There’s even a link to an expla­na­tion about the site’s use of paid con­tent. Here’s how its chief rev­enue offi­cer, James Mar­cus, describes the process in an inter­view with AdAge:

“We sit down and talk to a brand about what their core val­ue is. We’re look­ing for that over­lap with our audi­ence. We find that and then work back­wards. It might be a 12 month engage­ment with a lot of touch points or some­thing bite-sized.”

Accord­ing to the startup’s met­rics, vis­i­tors are social­ly shar­ing these posts three times more than stan­dard posts and are spend­ing three times as long view­ing them. Busi­ness devel­op­ment man­agers would prob­a­bly agree that that’s a pret­ty good result.

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