Stumble's Paid Discovery will wow advertisers

Ronny Kerr · March 14, 2011 · Short URL:

StumbleUpon has the social media traffic, its new ad platform could blow competitors away

Promoted Trends are so 2010.
StumbleUpon, the Web’s top social discovery engine, on Monday launched Paid Discovery, a new way for businesses and brands to harness the power of social media to promote their products.
The genius of Paid Discovery is summed up in large letters on the program’s main site: “Skip The Click.” Instead of hoping and praying that users will click banner ads or links in a promoted posting, advertisers on the Paid Discovery platform bring people to their site automatically, 100 percent of the time.

After all, it’s built into the nature of StumbleUpon. Easily one of the Web’s simplest services, StumbleUpon sweeps the user to a brand new Web page every time they click the “Stumble” button in their browser’s toolbar. As one “stumbles” through the Web, one can thumbs up content they like and thumbs down content they don’t like; the service learns from this data to deliver content better suited to the user’s interests.

It doesn’t sound like very much, but somehow StumbleUpon has managed to consistently rival Facebook as the top source of social media traffic, according to Statcounter. Other well-known sites, like Twitter, reddit, YouTube, MySpace and Digg, don’t even come close.

With Paid Discovery, StumbleUpon has the potential to wow advertisers by delivering an audience that actually wants to engage with the advertiser’s content.

As a veteran StumbleUpon user, my only concern is that Paid Discovery could water down the experience of clicking through cool sites on the Web. After all, I use the service to find interesting articles and watch interesting videos, not to browse through commercials and advertisements. I contacted Mike Mayzel, StumbleUpon Director of Communications, to learn more about how ads will work on the new platform.

“The quality of the Paid Discovery experience is equally important as the organic stumbles,” Mayzel said. “Users can thumb up sponsored stumbles the same way they can rate the non paid pages. We have seen that our users thumb up sponsored stumbles almost as much as they do the organic pages, about 80% of the time. If a sponsored stumble does not score well on quality (gets a lot of thumbs down) we will not show it as much or even stop showing it.”

That’s a pretty impressive statistic and, if it’s true, foreshadows just how successful Paid Discovery could be.

Less than a week ago, StumbleUpon secured $17 million in new funding from Accel Partners, August Capital, DAG Ventures, First Round Capital and Sherpalo Ventures. It’s the company’s second VC round since its original creators bought back the service from eBay in 2009.

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