Upworthy’s secret sauce is now in the hands of brands.
Following limited partnerships with Dove, Skype, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Upworthy is launching a full-blown ad program and content consultancy. The goal? To bring brand-approved causes to a Facebook feed near you.
According to a blog post from cofounders Eli Pariser and Peter Koechley, the site’s editorial team will remain independent outside its brand partnerships and the site will not serve as an outlet for “greenwashing.” That statement isn’t too encouraging; the ad program’s purpose is to help brands buy goodwill by aligning with causes.
Upworthy is already spreading mixed messages. Dove’s campaign on Upworthy, for example, contradicts the actions of men’s grooming brand Axe — both are owned by the same parent, Unilever.
As for what these new ads will look like, Upworthy says they’ll take on three forms. Two of these options, promoted posts and sponsored sections, are run-of-the-mill services in the content marketing industry. Promoted posts allow brands to create their own content and pay Upworthy to promote it. Sponsored sections allow brands to underwrite site categories without gaining editorial control.
Upworthy’s highest-end offering, however, makes the publication look more like a marketing firm. Upworthy will offer “content consultation,” a service that helps customers with “content selection, packaging, and distribution strategies.” It’s like if Vayner Media masqueraded as an independent publication.
Despite these mixed messages, Upworthy has proven its ability to manufacture viral content. The company claims a massive 78 percent of U.S. Facebook users have a friend who’s liked Upworthy (or have done so themselves). Put another way, if you’re on Facebook in the U.S., odds are you’ll see sponsored Upworthy content on Facebook soon.
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