World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Hailed as the 'fastest growing news site ever' Upworthy looks to develop advertising strategy

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Hailed as the 'fastest growing news site ever' Upworthy looks to develop advertising strategy

Upworthy's development of its advertising strategies is the natural next step for an online news service that has gone from strength to strength after little more than a year in operation. Mere months after its launch on 26 March 2012, Upworthy managed to garner wide-spread media coverage, thanks to steadily escalating traffic figures driven by the site's canny use of headlines. As previously reported by the Editor's Weblog, the team behind Upworthy realised early on that the amount of interest a feature generated was directly linked to its headline. A group of curators scour the net, focusing on Facebook in particular, to find "things that matter," before around 25 headlines are written for each post. These headlines are then tested through audience feedback, so that the headline deemed most likely to generate a greater number of clicks is attached to the right content.

It is a tactic that has seen the number of unique visitors to the site increase from 2.5 million in July 2012 to 30 million for the month of May 2013. An infographic published by Forbes reveals that in the sixth quarter since its launch the aggregation site managed to attracted an average of 13.5 million, compared to the Huffington Post's approximately 1.5 million and Business Insider's about 1.8 million for the same period.

Traffic to had been steadily rising throughout the second half of last year, but the leap in visitors is perhaps surprising for an online news brand whose 7 million monthly "uniques" in November 2012 (up from July's figure of 2.5 million) were deemed "not particularly impressive" by Business Insider. Despite the apparently modest rate of user interaction, Upworthy's impressive growth rate enticed investors and saw the site secure $4 million from venture capital firm NEA, Buzzfeed co-founder John Johnson, Facebook co-founder and owner of New Republic Chris Hughes and Reddit's Alexis Ohanian, among others.

On its "About" page, the organisation describes its financial strategy as being based on a system that connects visitors "with non-profits and other organisations who are looking to grow their memberships via the sign-up boxes" that appear throughout the site. The referral fees earned by encouraging its users to donate to causes such as Oxfam and the Sierra Club have so far kept Upworthy afloat, but this business model now seems as though it's about to take on a new dimension. Upworthy's executives are working on a pilot project that will see the site accept sponsored content from for-profit organisations, as well as expanding and continuing partnerships deals the site has already established with charities and other organisations.

Diversifying its pool of advertising partners to include corporate companies could pose a certain risk for the site's brand, given the statement on that "whom you work with is a moral decision." However Peter Koechly, who founded the site along with former executive director of Eli Pariser has insisted that this latest move will do nothing to damage Upworthy's integrity. Speaking to Forbes' Jeff Bercovici, Koechly explained: “What’s important is that the content itself, the message itself is "upworthy" and not a blatant play to cover up what the company is about... I don’t think we’re going to work with Chevron saying what they’re doing is great for the environment.”

Some of the most notable hits on have included videos highlighting issues of LGBTQQ equality and an interview with actor Patrick Stewart on the subject of domestic violence. By encouraging users to link to Upworthy-aggregated content through social networking sites, Koechly and Pariser's "mission-driven media company" is, according to Scanvine, the number one most shared website on social media channels. A certain amount of scepticism greeted Upworthy's desire to prove that it was possible for social commentary and hard-hitting news to become an Internet sensation as quickly as a grumpy cat gif. Now, with advertisers hoping their message can benefit from Upworthy's buzz strategies, Koechly and Pariser seem to have proven that serious news (albeit headed by sensational titles) can pay.




Amy Hadfield's picture

Amy Hadfield


2013-07-01 17:49

Author information

© 2020 WAN-IFRA - World Association of News Publishers

Footer Navigation