When the company raised an $8 million Series A last fall, executives said they wanted to make money through sponsored content. However, they revealed more details about those plans (and who’s actually doing the sponsoring) in a blog post today.
The Upworthy Collaborations program will have three main parts, the company said — brands can promote their own posts, sponsor curated topics, and receive consultation on how to make their content better (or at least better-suited for Upworthy). The first advertiser announced in this program is Unilever, which is working with Upworthy to promote its sustainability initiative Project Sunlight.
Upworthy says that it will maintain editorial independence, that it won’t work with every advertiser (the blog post calls out companies engaged in “greenwashing”, i.e., “covering up bad behavior with superficial work to improve their image”), and that there will be “no expandable banner ads, homepage takeovers, or garish advertorial content on the site.”
The post concludes:
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.
In a related announcement, the company released some data about sharing on the site. Citing data from Newswhip, Upworthy says its average post drives 75,000 Facebook Likes, “some 12x more than BuzzFeed.”