1. Posted:

    Our Mission Is Huge. Here’s How We’re Building The Business To Support It.

    We started Upworthy with a clear mission: to bring massive amounts of attention to the most important topics in the world. We never thought that would be easy. The sheer volume of Internet chatter around personality quizzes, LOLcats, sideboobs, and the like still vastly outnumbers conversations around income inequality, public health, and climate change (for now). But, with your help, we think we’ve been able to make a sizable dent for important issues: More than 50 million people engage with Upworthy every month, spending more than 5 million minutes daily watching, reading, and sharing.

    To really accomplish our mission, though, we’ll need to operate at a much more significant scale. That’s why we started Upworthy as a business. But building a revenue strategy isn’t something you rush into, and we like iterative learning — so we began to test and learn.

    Over the last year, we’ve worked with some amazing folks like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who helped fund our section All 7 Billion, where we’ve gone deep on really important issues like global health and poverty. We’ve also collaborated on pilots with brands like Dove and Skype that have created compelling videos giving voice to important messages — messages you proved were important by reading and sharing as much as any of our other posts. It’s still early, but the signs are good. And we think there’s an amazing opportunity to work with both brands and nonprofits in a symbiotic way — underwriting our work to draw attention to the most important topics.

    Today, building on those pilots, we’re introducing a new advertising program called Upworthy Collaborations. Here’s where we’ve landed and why we’re excited about it.

    What is Upworthy Collaborations?
    Let’s be clear: It’s advertising. Let’s be even clearer: It’s more than that.

    Upworthy Collaborations is about finding a shared mission with brands and organizations — working together to connect the best of what they stand for with what our community cares about. Brands get an opportunity to participate in the Upworthy community, we get to go deeper on important content areas, and together we push the mission forward.

    Here’s what it looks like for advertisers:


    On a practical level, it means you’ll see sponsored sections around topics we think are important and promoted posts that fit with the Upworthy mission. Most importantly, you’ll always know when a brand is involved — it’s very clearly marked — and you can rest assured that we’ll only work with folks we think are actually making a real effort at improving the world, not just those saying it.

    We realize there’s a lot there, so let’s unpack it.

    Upworthy won’t be a fit for every brand — and some brands won’t be a fit for Upworthy.
    We’re looking for organizations interested in drawing attention to ideas that are truly important to society — that’s always our first and most important question. And we’re happy to draw attention to great things companies are doing, but we make sure they’re really doing it and not just “greenwashing” (covering up bad behavior with superficial work to improve their image). 

    We aren’t weighing our site down with the usual hallmarks of Internet advertising.
    We want to keep the experience as clean and enjoyable for you as possible. That’s why there are no expandable banner ads, homepage takeovers, or garish advertorial content on the site. You will see tasteful sponsorships, clearly disclosed promotional content, and excellent curation around topics that both the brand and Upworthy believe in deeply.

    Our editorial content is still 100% independent.
    Advertisers have no ability or leverage to affect what we cover on the rest of the site — even when it directly touches on what they’re doing or is critical of them. 

    Our latest collaboration is with Unilever’s Project Sunlight, a long-term initiative to motivate people to live sustainably by inspiring them to create a brighter future for children. It will start with Upworthy promoting the best of existing Project Sunlight content and curating stories from across the web highlighting leaders working to make the world better and more sustainable.

    Why do we think this campaign is a fit? Drawing more attention to the stories of leaders who are working on making the world better and more environmentally sustainable is a good thing, and it touches on several of the top topics our audience voted to see more of in 2014. Kismet. Why do we think Unilever is a fit? Because they are making great strides toward a more sustainable world, and we think we can help.

    We’re committed to making these collaborations a win for everybody, and we’re confident they will be.

    • Our readers win. With brands and nonprofits behind us, we can go broader and deeper on the topics that matter to you, experiment with new types of content, lift up underreported issues, and make the Upworthy experience even more rich and engaging. These collaborations will allow us to invest and experiment with new ways to tell stories that matter.
    • Our advertising partners win. Participating in one of the most active, socially connected communities on the web comes with its advantages. It gives brands a chance to show what they believe in and care about.
    • Our mission wins. For example: Since the beginning of the year, with just a handful of curators, we have driven millions of Attention Minutes to topics surrounding hunger, income inequality, and homelessness. Collaborations will help us scale up this kind of effort so we can elevate more great stories around these topics and reach more people. Twice as much? Three times? We can’t wait to find out.

    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.

    — Peter & Eli