Emerson Spartz began his media career with the Harry Potter blog he created at the age of 12. Fast forward 16 years and he is still channeling some of that same magic, and has now secured a $25 million strategic investment led by Tribune Media Co. for his viral content sites Dose and OMGFacts.
Mr. Spartz, who is renaming his Chicago-based company from Spartz Media to Dose Media, says the Series B funding will allow him to triple the size of his staff to around 100 people, and make significant investments in video and building a branded content team.
For Tribune, which owns 42 local television stations around the country, the investment will allow it to utilize the data science teams and predictive analytics platforms Mr. Spartz has assembled.
“There is this wonderful opportunity now to harness what the Dose team has done on the technology side and put it out through our megaphone,” said Josh Cogswell, Tribune Media’s chief product officer.
The investment highlights an increased focus on the potential of digital properties for Tribune Media, which separated from its newspaper holdings last year (the newspapers, which include the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, are now part of a company called Tribune Publishing).
“This is certainly not a one-off transaction for us but is part of a larger strategy to cultivate the next, best storytelling that is very authentic. And these guys are going to help enable us on the technology and the data science side as well,” Mr. Cogswell said.
Neither Messrs. Spartz nor Cogswell would discuss valuation for the investment. Spartz had raised $9.5 million in earlier funding rounds.
Mr. Spartz’s company uses predictive technology to identify content that is likely to become a viral hit and then creates stories based off that info and passes it around social media. His other site, OMGFacts, zeroes in on surprising factoids that also have a high potential to make waves online.
According to comScore Inc., traffic to Dose in October grew 47% compared to the same month in 2014 with 13.5 million unique visitors. Traffic to OMGFacts grew 60% to 4.3 million in the same period.
Mr. Spartz said the company’s revenue has grown eight-fold in the past year but declined to give a specific figure. He said the company could be profitable now but has opted not to be in order to focus on investments.