Media

Pulse grows from 1M to 11M users in 2011, works on monetization

Pulse, which makes a news reading app for Apple and Android tablets and smartphones, threw a party in the penthouse of the Kimberly Hotel last night to celebrate it big growth. “These guys offered to pay me for using our technology,” said Richard Ziade of Readability. “I should have accepted their offer.” He shook his head with a laugh, admiring the view and grabbing a slice of seared tuna off a passing tray.

Since it was founded in a Stanford dorm room in the spring of 2010 by roomates Akshay Kothari and Ankit Gupta, Pulse has been focused on growing its user base, expanding the number of big media names in its roster, and getting its product onto as many mobile platforms as possible. But last night, as investors from Greycroft and Lerer Ventures sipped bright blue “Pulse cocktails”, the talk turned to revenue.

“We are in New York because a lot of our publishing partners are here,” said Kothari. The last time Pulse visited the Big Apple, the team was surprised how receptive big media was. After all, they had scrapes with the New York Times and were briefly yanked from the App Store. All that seems to have changed now. “There is also a lot of inbound interest from Madison Avenue, so we are having discussions about the possibilities for advertising on Pulse.”

One option would be a revenue split similar to what OnSwipe has done, creating a new set of rich media ads that appear in between swipes on a tablet or smartphone. The share of the ad revenue that Pulse keeps versus the publisher would depend on who does the selling. But if Pulse does try this approach, it could place the ads against a broad network of premium content from dozens of publishers, divided up by verticals like technology and culture, with more than 200 million stories read each month.

Kothari said that Pulse recently hired its first director of revenue to run these efforts, stealing him away from Facebook, where he worked on the social networking giant’s mobile efforts. 2012 will be a telling year, when Pulse figures out if there is money to be made from all the users and pageviews it keeps adding.

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