BlogFrog, a community-building network for mom bloggers, has raised $3.2 million in a Series A round of funding led by Grotech Ventures. Seed investor David Cohen, founder of TechStars also participated.
The Boulder-based company will use the money to open a New York office from which to better court ad dollars from Madison Avenue. It’ll also invest in its platform, which currently offers a community-focused product and a brand-focused product.
BlogFrog’s network has more than 100,000 members, 75,000 of which are qualified women bloggers with more than 10,000 readers who make a significant portion of their income from their blogs. Next year it will go after the men’s market, which co-founder Rustin Banks says is smaller, but highly engaged in niches like gaming, sports and politics.
The company’s widget allows bloggers to embed communities into their own sites. This means that readers not only can comment on a blog post but can start their own conversations and engage more fluidly with each other through BlogFrog’s embedded interface. Still with me?
For an example, BlogFrog powered the community section of ABCNews and United Nations Foundation’s Million Moms Challenge campaign. It’s basically a fancy, streaming message board with analytics.
There’s also branding. BlogFrog’s plan is to monetize the conversations through sponsored conversations or, in some cases, entire sponsored communities.
The company has communities on sites like food company Udi’s Gluten Free, or Horizon Dairy. As companies experiment with sponsored communities, their results often lead to larger investments outside of the test budget, Banks said. And because the conversations happen via BlogFrog’s backend software, the engagement analytics can go straight to the brand.
With sponsored conversations, top bloggers compose a piece of content through the BlogFrog system, which is then pushed to their blog with the brand messaging integrated (and, disclosed, of course). BlogFrog tracking data and commenting system captures all the shares/likes/comments/what-have-yous, so that the brand can redistribute them anywhere, like, say, on their Facebook page.
So it makes sense that co-founder Rustin Banks is unabashedly anti-display ad. “It’s going away entirely in another five years,” he said. “As our screens shrink, there won’t be any room and consumers will be less tolerant of distractions around their content. All future advertising will be integrated into the content.”
Fair enough. Everyone hates display ads, even though marketers spend $30 billion a year on them. Bloggers in particular are hungry for ways to monetize their highly engaged and trusting readers without shoving banners in their faces. Since BlogFrog’s sponsorship format is basically a template, it’s a way for brands to tap influencers with the scale of a display buy but with more meaningful impressions, Banks said. And the bloggers get paid too.
BlogFrog has 21 employees and is breaking even. If the company enjoys any success at all, its bloggers will too.
(Image via Ryan Gosling Loves Him Some Mom Bloggers, which is a thing, apparently.)