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New York social media startup Upworthy makes videos that matter go viral like no one else

Upworthy’s co-founder, Peter Koech­ley describes how his media site suc­ceeds in its mis­sion: to make videos with impor­tant con­tent – con­tent that real­ly impacts on how peo­ple live their lives — go “as viral as some idiot surf­ing off his roof”, to bor­row from the web­site. He puts it like this:

“From the very begin­ning we said we’re not going to do news. It sort of feels like tod­dlers play­ing soc­cer. Everyone’s run­ning after the ball. We want to be doing some­thing that adds val­ue. Instead of doing the most time­ly thing, or to have it first, we kind of want to be the place that’s reli­ably great, even though we’re not first. And in that sense we’re more magazine‑y than newsy. We’re adding more con­text, and frankly not stress­ing about top­ics that oth­er peo­ple are talk­ing about.”

Social media man­agers will doubt­less be intrigued as to how the site is kept ‘reli­ably great’; Upwor­thy pro­claims that its video con­tent is “…sen­sa­tion­al and sub­stan­tial. Enter­tain­ing and enlight­en­ing. Shock­ing and sig­nif­i­cant.” And with its vast fol­low­ing on Face­book, that claim is no exaggeration.

Spon­sored content

Hav­ing recent­ly raised $8 mil­lion in Series A fund­ing (it raised $4 mil­lion last Octo­ber), Upwor­thy is now focus­ing on using its edi­to­r­i­al con­tent to build rev­enue streams, some­thing it has only flirt­ed with pre­vi­ous­ly. To this end, it’s expand­ed its busi­ness team from “less than one” full-timer to four, and it’s start­ing to expand cov­er­age of spe­cif­ic top­ics like glob­al health and par­ent­ing which Koech­ley and fel­low co-founder Eli Paris­er believe will open the door to mon­e­ti­za­tion through sponsorships.

Koech­ley says that if a par­tic­u­lar top­ic gets real­ly aligned with a spon­sor, Upwor­thy will “find the best con­tent in the world” on the sub­ject and get it social­ly shared more effec­tive­ly than any­one else.

$12 mil­lion and a mass fol­low­ing, social media man­agers will agree, says that he knows what he’s talk­ing about.

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