There can’t be many social media managers who haven’t heard of New York’s meteorically successful viral aggregation and content sharing start-up Upworthy; and with its recently announced monetization plan, there’ll be fewer still.
Collaborating on native advertising
Last October, shortly after it raised $8 million in Series A, its executives were already talking about making money through sponsored advertising. Now they’ve lifted the veil on those plans: it’s going to bring in sponsored content through its new “Upworthy Collaborations” program.
That might leave social media managers feeling puzzled. Can native advertising really fit with a company ethos that’s ostensibly committed to social issues? Here’s a statement from the recent company blog unveiling the initiative: they’ve clearly anticipated that question:
“We know there are serious concerns any time a media company decides to work with advertisers. The most important thing for us is to find a way to grow with integrity while retaining your trust. That’s why it’s so important to us to be straight up with you — our community — and let you know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. We’ll keep tweaking this model as we learn and get feedback from you, but we both believe we’ve found the right path to start on today — one that advances our mission and will hopefully help Upworthy to remain strong, independent, and sustainable for years and decades to come.”
The new Collaborations program has three components: brands can receive consultations on how to make their content compatible with Upworthy (those that don’t fit won’t be able to use the program), they can sponsor curated topics and/or they can promote their own posts.
The first advertiser to sign up is Unilever, which will be working with the start-up to promote its “Project Sunlight” sustainability program. For its art, Upworthy is adamant that it’s not about to compromise on its principles. It’ll retain full editorial independence and it’ll steer clear of companies that cynically camouflage bad behavior with superficial work designed to make them look good (so-called “greenwashing”).
Moreover, there’ll be a strict ban on expandable banner ads, obtrusive advertorial content and homepage takeovers on the site.
And it’s doing spectacularly well: figures from Newswhip show that its average post drives 75,000 Facebook Likes. That’s 12 times more than its New York neighbor, BuzzFeed.