Whisper, an anonymous social media website and app company that disclosed last week it had hit the 10 million active-user mark, has moved to begin to monetize that cohort.
The company said it had tapped Mark Troughton, a veteran of Pasadena prepaid debit card company Green Dot, to serve as president. Whisper generates revenue by selling sponsored posts to TV and movie brands, and Troughton will be tasked with growing its small 10-brand advertising program into something that can sustain the company.
Jay Rockman, Whisper’s director of business development and marketing, said the focus on entertainment ads is tied directly to the app’s content. Users post images and texts anonymously, and the content leans heavily toward the scandalous, such as cheating spouses, and the innocent, such as the joys of having a best friend. Television and films tend to skew to the same subjects.
“Brands are aligning themselves with conversations that are happening on Whisper – that are not happening on any other platform – due to the nature of our platform,” Rockman said.
They align themselves by paying for branded post placement in popular feeds and by offering their branded images to users as backgrounds.
Background images from Paramount Pictures’ horror film remake “Poltergeist,” for example, were used some 15,000 times in the first 24 hours they were made available, he said.
“We are having a lot of conversations with brands that are not in the entertainment vertical,” said Rockman. “I could see our ad products and the type of content on Whisper appealing to the much wider vertical than just entertainment.”
The appointment of Troughton came as the company reported its user volume for the first time. Its 10 million active monthly users open the app at a rate of 1 million times an hour, it said. A spokeswoman for the Santa Monica company declined to disclose prior usage numbers.
Whisper was co-founded in 2012 by Michael Heyward, its chief executive, and childhood friend Brad Brooks, chief executive of Santa Monica’s TigerText, a self-destructing texting app.
Whisper has become a popular online bulletin board for millennials posting anonymous pictures overlaid with text confessions. Its users are drawn to the private, sometimes gossipy social media experience rather than the more open sharing that Facebook and Twitter provide.
Though a hot industry, anonymous social networks have proved too hot for some. Whisper’s closest competitor app, Secret, shut down last week, after much criticism for slanderous postings and cyberbullying, and despite raising $35 million in investments and having 15 million users.
Whisper, which has raised $61 million in venture capital funding, has faced its share of criticism as well.
British newspaper the Guardian reported in October that Whisper was tracking the locations of the app’s users despite saying in its terms and conditions that it would not. Though the paper later retracted much of its original story, Neetzan Zimmerman, Whisper’s editor-in-chief, resigned in the wake of the article.
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