As a nascent category, native advertising is still a territory most publishers and brands are struggling to map out. So it comes as a surprise when Upworthy, which just announced its entry back in April, reports that they have figured out the secret of effective native ads. The viral site claims that its branded content, from sponsors like Unilever, Skype and CoverGirl, have outperformed its regular posts. Besides the caveat that native ads typically receive more promotion from publishers, sources contribute this usual success to Upworthy’s specifically sharable, viral-worthy content and the comparatively high amount of effort poured into the creation of its native ads. However, given the site’s narrow topical focus that restricts it to only advertise with brands that meet its social good standards, this success story is very unlikely to be applied to every brand.
Branded content and native ads are nothing new, but Upworthy’s announcement of sponsored curation presents an interesting opportunity for cause marketing and social responsibility initiatives. The viral content network is planning Upworthy Collaborations which let brands deliver promoted posts, sponsored content curation around key themes and content consultation. Their first collaboration has been Unilever’s Project Sunlight which has curated a section of articles around sustainability efforts. There will certainly be plenty of eager brands looking for these custom opportunities but how will Upworthy revenue compare with a traditional display model?