If an interactive media network raises an additional $700k in seed funding barely a year after raising its first $1.3 million, most business development managers would concede that it’s probably got rather a lot going for itself.
New York media startup Versa, which began life as the politically-focused media network “ElectNext” in 2011, falls into this select category, courtesy of a round led by The Omidyar Network with participation from previous investors Quotidian Ventures and new investors the Knight Foundation, bringing the startup’s total funding to $2 million.
Name change, focus change
Innovative business development managers intrigued by clever ways of driving online advertising sales will clearly be interested in the answer to two key questions: why the change of name, and what’s on offer now?
When it raised its earlier round under its original moniker, the company focused on selling publisher widgets that could display contextual political information. But CEO and founder Keya Dannenbaum began to figure out a core problem for publisher clients. They wanted to find a way to monetize hitherto unmonetized parts of their sites AND enhance the newsreading experience for visitors.
And so the idea of a metamorphosis of sorts was hatched. ElectNext became Versa Media Network, connecting online publishers with groups and organizations prepared to pay to get their content and views featured in related articles. As the canny business development manager will immediately recognize, this is content marketing with a subtle and relevant edge.
For example, RealClearPolitics published a piece exploring the difficulties experienced by the Obamacare website. Versa’s technology analyzes news offerings as they’re published and alerts the organizations on its client list which might be interested in responding. Maxwell Health was featured in an accompanying article offering its own thoughts on the problems.
Dannenbaum concedes that timing is key: publishing a response a few days after an article has appeared isn’t likely to get much readership, but most responses are in the bag within an hour. Publishers can also rest assured that their own content quality standards apply to all sponsored responses via Versa.
The technology is now moving out of beta and, according to Dannenbaum, the emphasis is likely to spread beyond the purely political. She said, “I don’t think this setup is vertical-specific.”