1-Year-Old Startup Bustle Hits 20 Million Uniques And Raises $15.5 Million: 'It's Been A Watershed Year For Digital Media'

Bustle editorsBustleBustle editors: Alex Finkel, Editorial Operations; Jennifer Hollander, Senior News Editor (on floor); Kelsea Stahler, Associate Entertainment Editor; Kara McGrath, Fashion & Beauty Editor; Julie Alvin, Senior Lifestyle Editor; Lia Beck, Associate Entertainment Editor.

Bryan Goldberg and Kate Ward’s one-year-old publication for women, Bustle, now has 20 million monthly readers and it just raised a $US15.5 million round of financing led by General Catalyst Partners.

That’s up from 10 million monthly readers in July.

The site launched in August 2013 and strives to be the ultimate content site for women, covering everything from news to fashion and entertainment. 

Facebook has been good to a lot of publishers this year. For many, like Buzzfeed, it is their primary source of traffic referrals. One site, ViralNova, was able to attract 100 million monthly readers just eight months after launching with only one full-time staffer by riding Facebook’s traffic coattails.

Bustle has also benefitted from Facebook traffic, however it says no single source of traffic accounts for more than one-third of its 20 million monthly readers. It’s unclear what percentage of Bustle’s traffic is paid for (on Facebook, Outbrain, etc) versus organic.

“In an ideal world we’d love for [the traffic breakdown] to be 50% social media (Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter), and 50% non,” says Goldberg. “The goal is not to be dependent on any one source and never to let more than one-third of our traffic be from a single source.”  

Bustle is also starting to generate meaningful revenue: Goldberg says his site will pull in more than $US1 million in the fourth quarter of this year, largely from native advertisements. For example, Bustle worked with L’Oreal on a story, “See What Inspires These 7 CEOs Each Morning.”

Bryan goldberg kate wardBustleKate Ward and Bryan Goldberg.

Goldberg, who formerly co-founded Bleacher Report and helped sell it for more than $US200 million to Turner, says 2014 was a pivotal year for digital media and advertising.

“I’ve seen the size of ad deals get bigger every year, and the number of brands that get digital continues to grow,” Goldberg says. “This year wasn’t an outlier year. This was the first of many good years for digital media. Dollars are falling out of print and radio. For the first time, dollars are also leaving TV. And they’re all going to digital and mobile.”

Bustle has raised $US27 million to date. Raising more money means a higher valuation and less potential acquirers. Goldberg says he’s fine with that.

“We want to go the distance here. This was about us building something special and valuable,” he says. “We raised money because things are going so well… 2014 has been without a doubt the watershed year for digital media. We’ve never seen anything like this. I think 2015 is going to be bigger. I think we’ll see a ton more ad dollars move into digital.”

Bustle trafficQuantcastBustle’s traffic soared to more than 20 million monthly uniques this fall.

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