Upworthy, the viral aggregation site with an eye on social good, disclosed its first revenue model as the site looks to capitalize on its meteoric rise in page views.
Unilever will be the initial commercial brand to take part in Upworthy Collaborations, an effort to attract advertising around particular issues. Companies will be able to sponsor certain sections, but there will be no banner ads or homepage takeovers, Upworthy wrote in a blog post.
“You will see tasteful sponsorships, clearly disclosed promotional content, and excellent curation around topics that both the brand and Upworthy believe in deeply,” according to the company blog post.
The move is the first major monetization of the site, which has previously only carried sponsorships from organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as some sponsored posts as part of its testing of its revenue model. Upworthy said companies will be able to sponsor curation, but that editorial content would remain independent.
“We want to keep the experience as clean and enjoyable for you as possible,” Upworthy said on its blog.
Peter Koechley of The Onion and MoveOn.org’s Eli Pariser founded Upworthy in March 2012 with early funding from Chris Hughes, one of the cofounders of Facebook. In just a little more than two years, the site has come as close as any other outlet to mastering virality.
The site now draws more than 50 million unique monthly visitors with the average Facebook post garnering 75,000 likes, according to a press release. While still a small operation that posts less than most of its competitors, each post on Upworthy packs a major punch, as noted by The Atlantic‘s Derek Thompson. The operation has no centralized office, with its founders located in New York City and its more than 40 staff scattered among 17 cities.
Since its start, Upworthy has raised about $12 million in funding, counting Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian and the Knight Foundation among its investors.