PlayBuzz, the user-generated quiz and article site, revealed Wednesday it had raised $16 million in Series B financing, bringing its total funding to almost $20 million.
It’s the latest win for the Israeli publisher, which surpassed The Huffington Post three months ago to become the most-shared publisher on Facebook.
Investors liked PlayBuzz’s growth potential and that it “presents an opportunity for a platform play that can help content owners realize their true potential,” CEO and co-founder Shaul Olmert said.
PlayBuzz plans to use the funds to open offices in the US, Europe and Asia. It will add more content formats and launch a new publisher platform that includes data insights to enable performance tracking.
Founded in 2012, the company rolled out its quiz products December 2013. It posted 10.9 million uniques in February, according to comScore data. PlayBuzz’s internal analytics put it between 60 million and 100 million uniques in a given month.
The secret to PlayBuzz’s social virality lies in its user-generated content model. People create quizzes (like “What’s Your Level of Education”) or BuzzFeed-style list articles using PlayBuzz templates, and share among social networks.
To capitalize on its viral success, PlayBuzz plans to seek advertising revenue from sponsored content from brands, distributed natively through its network.
The sponsored content program, which does not have a launch date yet, will formalize how brands have already been using the platform. Brands like Domino’s Pizza, Target and retailer Country Outfitters have created quizzes as part of their content marketing efforts.
“Companies started using it to create native ads, and then they would call us and say, ‘We need data, we need distribution,’” said Olmert. “Until recently, the most expensive item on our P&L was data costs. We are data maniacs. We are recording and storing billions of analytic events.”
The distribution of brands’ content will come from the publisher network PlayBuzz created.
Publishers like Yahoo, Cosmopolitan and MarketWatch can use PlayBuzz’s quiz-making capabilities and put quizzes on their own sites for free. PlayBuzz also reserves the right to post publisher-created content on its own sites.
PlayBuzz will use that existing network – half of all PlayBuzz traffic occurs on publishers’ sites – to allow publishers to opt in to distribute content to brands.
PlayBuzz will charge brands for their sponsored content on a cost-per-view basis. Advertisers will access through a self-serve model.
It won’t be cheap. Olmert seeks rates comparable to BuzzFeed, Vox and other new media establishments, which typically charge 10 times the rate for display, with CPMs in the $70 to $100 range.
“The advertiser is paying for higher, substantial engagement,” Olmert said. “On PlayBuzz, they are spending four to five minutes on the page, looking at 20 different images and snippets of content.”
That deep engagement is why PlayBuzz has risen to the top with Facebook’s algorithms. It also earns more “shares” and “comments” rather than passive “likes” compared to its other shareable peers, according to data from NewsWhip.
PlayBuzz relies heavily on social for distribution: 60% of its traffic comes from social, mostly from Facebook, which accounts for 42% of overall traffic.
“We see a direct correlation between time spent per page and the amplification it gets on the Facebook news feed,” Olmert said, and the social engagement rate on Facebook and the love it gets on Facebook.”
While PlayBuzz runs, and will continue to run, standard banner ads, it’s betting that its native focus will please brands looking for new ways to engage audiences.
“Advertisers are tired of being the side dish,” Olmert said. “They want to be the main dish and the source of engagement. And on mobile, the plate is too small to be the side dish. If you make the advertising unit the main dish in a way that’s user-friendly, it’s a great opportunity.”