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News curation startup Upworthy closes $8M round

Eli Pariser
Image Credit: Photo of Eli Pariser via poptech/Flickr

Editorially curated content startup Upworthy has secured a new $8 million round of funding to help grow its service, the company announced today.

The round may seem large for what’s essentially a content/media startup, and indeed it is. But Upworthy has released plenty of traffic stats that show its model for making “worthy” content go viral is working. The company said it has about 5 million subscribers and brings in nearly 22 million unique visitors per month. And back in June, Upworthy hit a milestone 30 million unique visitors, as VentureBeat previously reported.

Upworthy was cofounded by Peter Koechley (formerly of The Onion) and former MoveOn.org executive director Eli Pariser, and it was built to highlight articles, videos, and photos that push a message of social good. It employs about 20 full- and part-time editors to sift through content that gets pushed out from Upworthy through all the major social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. Those “curators” also have access to a set of tools that help them determine what headlines or photos will get the maximum impact — sort of like a version of Visual Revenue that’s specifically for Upworthy.

“Giving great speeches to empty rooms is not what we’re about here,” Pariser said in an interview with VentureBeat. He added that the basic premise for Upworthy is that there’s plenty of really good, important content being produced online every day, but no one that’s really optimizing that content to get the most reach. That said, Upworthy isn’t trying to jump into the news reporting business at all, either.

Until now, the company hasn’t really focused on its monetization strategy. However, with the new funding Pariser said that it will now be able to hire more people on the sales and business end.

“Now that we’ve proven that there’s an audience for what [Upworthy] is doing, we really want to go back and start building out the business side of the company so that this can become a sustainable model that we can grow in the future,” Pariser told me.

The new round was led by Spark Capital, with participation from Catamount Ventures, Uprising, and well-known investor in news technology, the Knight Foundation.