Imgur is a massive web property, with 140 million monthly visitors and $40 million in funding from some of the top venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. But so far it has only dabbled at building a business around that traffic, with a few small tests of promoted posts created by advertisers. Today it's announcing the hire of Steve Patrizi as its VP of market development, and the company hopes to start rolling out a steady stream of native ads on Imgur some time in the first half of 2015.
Patrizi previously worked on exactly this kind of advertising at LinkedIn and Pinterest, so he understands the challenges of making a match between a startup's community of users and the brands who would pay to reach them. "We have seen an evolution of Imgur from an straight image posting service to now almost a visual storytelling community. People are creating, discovering, and discussing news stories through images. And so our challenge is to teach brands how to become that kind of visual storyteller."
"Our challenge is to teach brands how to become that kind of visual storyteller."
So far Imgur has managed to push promoted posts to the community without offending their users. Imgur submissions from UPS and Tesla got tens of thousands of up-votes and hundreds of comments. "In the testing we've done so far with brands, users have responded well, with a 9-1 ration of upvotes to downvotes," says Patrizi.
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Of course, it's hard to know how big brands will respond if their promoted post ends up side by side with whatever happens to be popular on Imgur at the moment, say the lesbian volleyball make-out fantasy that was the first post when I visited the site this morning. "We're looking for a group of marketers who are willing to spend some time learning the service and the community to make this work," says Patrizi. "We've also got some work to do making sure they know how to pronounce our name."