Contently Raises $9 Million to Expand Sponsored-Ad Business

Contently Inc., a marketing startup that helps advertisers create blog posts for sites such as Gawker and Slate, has raised about $9 million in funding to more than double its staff and improve its publishing software.

The new funding will bring Contently’s total money raised to about $11.7 million since it was founded in 2010, the New York-based company said today in a statement. Founder Collective, a previous investor, contributed to the new round.

Contently expects revenue of $20 million this year after growing almost 400 percent in 2013, Co-Founder Shane Snow said in an interview. While it was originally created as a way to connect freelance journalists with available work, the company now gets about 80 percent of net sales from software it sells to clients such as AT&T Inc. and Royal Philips NV.

“A lot of early clients were not traditional media companies, but were commercial brands,” said Snow, who also serves as chief creative officer. “Businesses are not equipped to move quickly and publish a story. We fell into a new business model.”

Business clients can use Contently’s software to publish stories themselves or to hire freelancers to help them with writing. The company now boasts about 30,000 freelance users, including 5,000 who are approved to create sponsored stories for clients.

For writers, a 500-word assignment with a single source can bring in about $250, though the contracts can be negotiated depending on the writer, Snow said. Contently takes a cut of freelancers’ fees.

BuzzFeed Traction

As publishers like BuzzFeed Inc. began to popularize sponsored stories, Contently’s business started to gain traction, Snow said. BuzzFeed makes money from creating sponsored versions of its articles and lists for advertisers. The company, which is also based in New York, expects revenue to increase to as much as $120 million in 2014, two people familiar with the matter said last month.

Part of Contently’s new funding will be focused on broadening its publishing software to include other media, such as video, and to create more analytic services to help clients see what stories are resonating with readers, Snow said. The company may also expand into other languages, he said.

“Stories build relationships,” he said. “That’s the idea of being driven by what consumers want.”

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