Sharethrough launches the Meaningful Content Fund, wants to be the "Secret Santa" of the web

By James Robinson , written on July 22, 2014

From The News Desk

Just like starving children in third world countries, pieces of good journalism going unnoticed online is now a philanthropic issue.

On stage at the Native Advertising Summit in San Francisco today, Sharethrough co-founder and CEO Dan Greenberg announced the Meaningful Content Fund, a $1 million effort to push better content online at the expense of all those cat videos that are oppressing humanity and pretty much ruining the world.

Sharethrough is a native advertising exchange, founded in 2008. Its Meaningful Content Fund has setup an advisory board comprising key figures from Twitter, Chartbeat, Quartz, Medium, and Sharethrough. Following a soft launch in April, Greenberg said, the fund has thus far thrown its weight behind 52 different stories, with the board choosing three to five stories a week (such as Medium's 'The boy whose brain could unlock autism').

Once the content has been chosen, Sharethrough emails the author and then promotes their content through its advertising pipeline, alongside branded content from its clients, bringing an extra "ten to twenty thousand" hits to each chosen article.

"It's like Secret Santa, for the Internet," Greenberg said. "We want to identify and promote under appreciated content."

On a panel alongside Fast Company's Alice Truong, and two Meaningful Content Fund board members,  Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile and Twitter's Head of Product innovation and growth, Greenberg said the two main pillars of what made something "meaningful" and worth promoting was the depth of engagement and new, novel thought.

Greenberg was uneasy, however, at being too declarative about what made something empirically meaningful. "I don’t want to lay it down and make a broad sweeping statement," he said.

Which is kind of the issue. As well intentioned as the Meaningful Content Fund may be -- which it is -- it's still a grouping of companies with skin in the game (hence, Medium editor on the board, Medium story getting promoted) deciding what content is more important than other stories.

The longevity and traction the Meaningful Content Fund will find will be a matter of how tragic people find it that not every piece of good work published online each day finds a deserving audience. In most cases, good stories and good work still does find a way.

In slightly overdramatic fashion, Greenberg and his fellow panelists spent much of their 30 minutes on stage pitching to the audience about the heartbreaking plight of the under read, yet still worthy story. The panel ran somewhat like a satirical World Vision ad for content creators fed up with the new age of social media.

“It’s a shame that this fund has to exist at all. It’s a shame we have to prime the pump to get good quality content out there,” Chartbeat's Haile said.

Twitter's Buckhouse later mused, “Stories are these tiny machines that effect change in the mind of the recipient. Part of what we find interesting… is thinking about which of these tiny machines are we sending out into the world.”

Like all good social issue ads, Greenberg signed off with a call to action.

“Join this movement, either directly through this group or on your own, if you believe as passionately as we do that meaningful content matters.”