2014 Report: Upworthy Collaborations Generates $10 Million In Revenue In 9 Months Since Launch

Proprietary native advertising model is new engine for marketers eager to engage socially conscious consumers

Feb 20, 2015, 09:10 ET from Upworthy

NEW YORK, Feb. 20, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Upworthy, the popular website that brings massive amounts of attention to important topics, today announced the first nine months of business results for Upworthy Collaborations, the company's proprietary native advertising model. Upworthy's partnerships with top national brands and nonprofits booked more than $10 million in revenue in 2014, more than doubling the company's goal. And Upworthy Collaborations has yielded even more significant wins for Upworthy's partners: a significant increase in brand perception.

Marketers are increasingly adopting the notion that meaningful and emotional connections are the way to consumers' hearts and minds. Look no further than this year's Big Game spots for evidence: the consensus among media and consumers alike was that heart-driven advertising was the undisputed theme. As noted in an article in The New York Times on the subject, brands are seeking ways to fit not just into consumers' wallets, but their lives.

Upworthy Collaborations is doing just that for its partners. It's unique among native advertising platforms in that it doesn't just promote an organization's products and services; it showcases a brand's core values, attributes and even their aspirations. Upworthy Collaborations' proprietary model goes brand awareness; instead, it actually drives shifts in overall brand perception. 

Through its various offerings, including sponsored curation, promoted posts, proprietary optimization and analytical insights – and most recently, branded content creation – Upworthy Collaborations works with some of the world's largest brands and nonprofits to connect the best of what they stand for with what resonates most powerfully with the social media community. Upworthy established first-in-category brand partnerships across a wide variety of industries in 2014, with clients including Unilever, Whirlpool Brand, Gap, Holiday Inn, TOMS, Pantene, Dove, A&E, Universal Pictures, Virgin Mobile, American Family Insurance, COVERGIRL, and many more. Leading partners from the non-profit world include The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The United Nations, The Atlantic Philanthropies and The U.S. Fund for Unicef.

The model is working: in 2014, Upworthy's sponsored content performed 38 times better than the industry standard for social interactions against all content of the top 25 social publishers (NewsWhip 2014 data). Sponsored posts on topics such as climate change, female empowerment, humanity & culturehealth and diversity & equality were among the top performers throughout the year, with many garnering more than 500,000 views each and/or more than 100,000 likes, comments or shares on social media. And partners, particularly those who want to reach socially conscious consumers of all ages, are seeing direct benefits as a result.

"I am not aware of any other media company whose business model has been so immediately and thoroughly embraced in its first year of operation," said James Marcus, Chief Revenue Officer at Upworthy. "But it speaks to the fact that we are providing a truly unique, and extremely powerful version of native advertising that marketers just can't get elsewhere. We're the only game in town delivering a content experience for partners that truly wins the hearts and minds of their target audience. We're not just providing momentary amusement. We inspire people to stop, think and change their minds because we're experts at telling heart-driven, purposeful stories."

And in today's society, appealing to consumers in a meaningful way is not just a boon to brands' businesses but critical to their success.

  • According to a December 2013 MediaPost article, "93% of U.S. consumers expect companies to do more than just make money."
  • As a 2014 Google study (in partnership with TNS and Ogilvy) found, consumers select brands that tap into their personal passions and interests 42% more often than those who simply push product messaging.
  • This is particularly important to the Millennial generation: a Yahoo/DigitasLBi/Razorfish/Tumblr study (as cited in Adweek) found that of the five brand characteristics ranked as most important, four align with purpose-driven messaging.
  • The same rings true for sponsored content. Research by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Edelman Berland reports that brand familiarity and trust (81%) and subject matter expertise (82%) are core reasons why consumers choose to read sponsored content.
  • Furthermore, the IAB/Edelman research found that 60% of those who consume online news are more receptive to native advertising that tells a story versus pushes a product.

"Consumers – and especially the Millennial generation – care about the social values of the brands and organizations they support, and they increasingly want them to be married," said Josh Luger, Director of Revenue at Upworthy. "That marriage is what Upworthy Collaborations is all about, making us a powerful new weapon for brands and organizations that have authentic and meaningful stories to tell. We are benefitting from the fact that more and more brands and organizations are realizing they need to connect emotionally and authentically in telling those stories to be successful in today's market."

Upworthy Collaborations officially launched last April, with Unilever joining as its initial partner.

"We hopped on board as Upworthy Collaborations' launch partner last April, expecting Upworthy to be uniquely able to inspire social engagement and ignite positive action around Project Sunlight," said Marc Mathieu, Senior Vice President, Marketing, at Unilever. "They did so right out of the gate, but with far better results than we had ever imagined. In less than 8 months, we've sponsored and promoted dozens of pieces of content, and have reached over 175 million social impressions, and 6 million social interactions, from over 15 million viewers. We've also seen a 17% increase in brand perception among users engaging with the series recognizing Unilever as being committed to protecting the planet for future generations. We couldn't be happier with Upworthy Collaborations and we're eager to see what this year brings."

As Upworthy's sponsored curation and promoted content took off in 2014, brands started asking about Upworthy's ability to help them create heart-driven, socially engaging content from scratch. Upworthy then partnered with Whirlpool Brand and DigitasLBi to do just that.

"The small acts of care we provide our families daily may seem insignificant and often feel like a chore. But at their core, every act of care we give helps the people we love become people who love—and that is what inspires us to make trusted appliance products. We wanted to demonstrate the real value of daily chores," said Jon Hall, Senior Brand Manager, Whirlpool Brand. "Upworthy brought us on as their first original content partner to help tell this story as part of the Every day, care™ Campaign. We were happy with the results, with hundreds of thousands of people viewing, sharing and talking about the work."

Upworthy is slated to launch a slew of campaigns in early 2015, anchored by original content it is currently collaborating on with partners. Among them is an exciting new campaign with Norton around championing digital rights and security.

TOMS, the socially conscious brand and pioneer of the "one for one concept" business model, saw incredible results from its Upworthy sponsored series on water conversation.

"TOMS & Upworthy was a thoughtful and innovative partnership which allowed us to expand our reach to a like-minded audience," said Ellen Howarth, Social Media Specialist at TOMS. "During our engagement, we saw 69% higher monthly community growth on TOMS owned social media channels, while surpassing engagement, impression, and pageview goals."

Upworthy was also extremely pleased to be able to partner with entertainment clients to promote meaningful shows and films. A&E joined as Upworthy's first television partner, while Universal Pictures worked with Upworthy to craft a unique execution around the film Unbroken.

"We partnered with Upworthy to bring attention to the life and values of Louis Zamperini, the subject of our recent film, Unbroken, and his amazing story," said Doug Neil, Executive Vice President, Digital Marketing at Universal Pictures. "In a way that only Upworthy can, we created a strategic bundle of content — some that we provided, and some that Upworthy curated — that centered around perseverance of the human spirit in the face of adversity, which is the core of Louis's story. We also asked people to tell their own stories as part of the #IAmUnbroken movement. The campaign exceeded expectations by generating over 60,000 social interactions in just a few short weeks leading up to the film's release. But more importantly, we heard from countless people around the country who were inspired by the movement and wanted their voices to be heard. It was an incredible way to honor Louis's legacy and promote the film."

"It's an exciting new chapter for us to be talking about our Upworthy business model and the dynamic results it already has achieved," said Upworthy cofounder Eli Pariser. "Because our business model is an essential step forward to achieving our mission. Our mission is to improve society by bringing massive amounts of attention to important issues, and it is incredibly gratifying to be reminded by this data that we're not alone in that effort. We may not be the right partner for everyone - if a brand doesn't genuinely stand for something good in the world, we won't be able to help get them there. But the compassionate brands and organizations out there who do stand for something bring important new resources to the topics we care about. And when the biggest businesses in the world join the fight for good, that's a tipping point. Upworthy is proud to be accelerating that important progression, particularly on neglected issues that really matter."

Upworthy brings massive amounts of attention to things that matter in the world through compelling, heart-driven storytelling. Every day, the mission-driven media company's curators find and spotlight important, high-quality content using a proprietary approach that combines deep social science, strong voice, and a passionate community. Learn more at http://www.upworthy.com.


Kaitlin Bitting
Allen & Gerritsen 

Logo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20150219/176556LOGO

SOURCE Upworthy