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This Guy Just Raised $25 Million Because He Knows What You Want to Click

And he's not shy about it.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Back in the old days, figuring out how to make Popular Web Content seemed like a tricky and mysterious thing. Now we know better: If you want to get yourself some Popular Web Content, you just find some Popular Web Content on someone else’s Web site and publish it on your own.

Easy? Well, it’s not hard. But if you want to turn Popular Web Content into a business, you will want to do it at scale, using software.

And that’s what Emerson Spartz says he is doing. The CEO of Dose Media LLC (formerly Spartz Media) says he’s building “the most technologically-advanced digital media company in the world,” which for now means he has figured out how to publish lots of Facebook-friendly content and use it to drive traffic to his and sites.

Here’s the sort of thing Spartz’s sites specialize in: “Garlic May Give You Breath That Could Kill, But It Gives You Body Odor That’s to Die For,” which OMGFacts published yesterday, after apparently finding the same story at Mental Floss, which says it originally found the story at Discover. But Spartz’s people could have also found it at NewsMax, HuffingtonPost, Forbes or the site for KSFM, a “Rhythmic Contemporary Hits” radio station in Sacramento.

Spartz says he’s attracting 50 million visitors a month*, and while he doesn’t employ a sales team, he says he has been able to generate real revenue using ad networks. All of that has allowed him to raise $25 million in a round led by Tribune Media on top of $9.5 million in earlier funding; Tribune says it will use Spartz’s tech on its own sites.

There are plenty of other Web publishers that have figured out how to turn Facebook into a traffic hose, but some of them are embarrassed to tell you what they’re up to. Not Spartz: The 28-year-old is confident that his methodical system for finding stuff people want to share with one another, and improving his odds by writing a better headline or seeding it with audiences most likely to appreciate it — and automating as much of the process as possible — is the only logical approach to Web publishing.

Spartz’s methods — and his fascinating backstory, which includes a stint running the world’s most popular Harry Potter fansite at the age of 12 — are laid out quite nicely in this New Yorker piece from January.

And when I visited Spartz in his Chicago headquarters in May, he was happy to discuss his approach with me. Here’s a 5-minute Q&A session:

* Spartz says his 50 million number is a worldwide tally, provided by Google Analytics. ComScore, meanwhile, pegs his U.S. traffic at 18 million a month.

This article originally appeared on

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