Mediaradar Blog

‘Corporate drama almost every day’: Behind strong sales, deep discontent at Good and Upworthy

‘Corporate drama almost every day’: Behind strong sales, deep discontent at Good and Upworthy

 by Max Willens

Upworthy and Good Worldwide combined with a shared mission to promote social causes and uplifting content, but what resulted was a union rife with discord and rancor.

On Aug. 2, Good laid off 31 staffers, more than 40 percent of the company’s headcount, the overwhelming majority of whom worked for Upworthy. The cuts prompted Upworthy’s president, Eli Pariser, and editor-in-chief, Liz Heron, to resign.

The suddenness and scope of the layoffs came as a surprise to employees. Representatives from a restructuring firm called employees one by one, reading from a script informing them that they had been let go.

That bad news was just the latest splotch on an already ugly picture that was marred with executive turnover, editorial disagreements and, most recently, a slide in traffic.

“Upworthy always had the audience while Good had been doing more boutique, bespoke and magazine work,” one former executive said. “That was the logic behind the merger.”

From a distance, things appeared to be going well. By October 2017, the combined company claimed it was profitable, boosted by six-figure deals with advertisers including Hennessey, State Farm and Cigna.

“Q4 will break Q3’s revenue record,” Goldhirsh told Adexchanger. “Q2 beat Q1, and Q3 beat Q2.”

That momentum continued through the first half of this year, with Good’s sales staff focusing on Upworthy. In the first six months, Upworthy did business with over 475 advertisers, a nearly 200 percent increase year over year, according to Mediaradar. Over that same period, the number of advertisers on Good’s site fell by nearly 50 percent, per Mediaradar. Branded content supplied 60 percent of the company’s revenue, a company spokesperson said.

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