The site, led by Bleacher Report co-founder Bryan Goldberg and former Hollywood.com Executive Editor Kate Ward, has grown quickly. Three months after launch, Bustle had 1 million monthly unique visitors who were pouring in from an array of traffic sources including Google, Pinterest, and Facebook.
Existing investors Social+Capital and Time Warner Investments contributed to the $US5 million round so Bustle and its staff of 27 can keep doing more of the same. R & R Investments, run by Clippers CEO Dick Parsons and the billionaire son of Estee Lauder, Ron Lauder, also invested in Bustle, bringing the company’s total funding to $US11.5 million. Bustle says it still has most of the $US6.5 million it initially raised in the bank.
Despite the early traction, Bustle learned some tough lessons during its first year. Goldberg, who is 30 and sarcastic, botched Bustle’s launch whe he wrote some pompous-sounding blog posts.
“I can’t wait to launch my next site. It’s going to make me rich(er),” Goldberg teased Bustle in PandoDaily in March 2013. An August launch announcement implied that Bustle would be the first site for women to write news along with beauty product reviews. This enraged women in media such as Jezebel’s Jessica Coen and The List’s Rachel Sklar. The bad press is also part of the reason Google Ventures sold it early Bustle shares to Social + Capital Partnership and removed Bustle from its portfolio.
After the media backlash, Goldberg quickly fell on his sword and wrote a blog post admitting his mistakes. He turned a few of his critics into friends. Rachel Sklar, for example, is now an advisor to Bustle.
For the past eight months, Goldberg has remained quiet and let Bustle grow behind the scenes. Ward admits that Bustle’s launch could have been handled better, but she’s proud of the site she and Goldberg have built since.
“We certainly understood the backlash in the community that Bryan’s letter received — it’s no secret that many of us shared the collective reaction, and we made sure to let Bryan know how we felt about his piece,” she wrote Business Insider in an email. “But since we launched, we never second-guessed what we were trying to accomplish: the creation of a platform where a large number of women could write about the issues they’re most passionate about.”
Her team and Bustle’s freelancers have found success covering everything from serious news items like Hobby Lobby to photo-heavy beauty how-tos that perform well on Pinterest. Bustle has risen to become one of the top 200 sites on the Internet with little paid marketing, although it boosts some posts on Facebook with the help of SimpleReach.
One of Bustle’s most popular articles tested the public’s reaction to three levels of makeup application: nothing, light and heavy. The story, “How Do People React To Different Levels Of Makeup?” performed well on Facebook and was featured on Good Morning America.
“Most of Bustle’s success could be attributed to a strong editorial team,” says Ward. “We’ve been able to bring together a group of women that are not only extremely talented, but passionate about what Bustle is and will be.”