Startup publisher Stackin turned to blowing up people's phones after Facebook turned off its traffic spigot

Startup publisher Stackin turned to blowing up people's phones after Facebook turned off its traffic spigot

  • The personal finance-focused startup publication Stackin launched about a year ago, largely focused on Facebook's video platform.
  • But since Facebook's algorithm shift early this year that deprioritized media content, Stackin shifted towards a SMS-centric distribution strategy.
  • The company now has two daily SMS products and expects to have over 250,000 opt-in subscribers by the end of summer.
  • It's also just raised $2 million-plus in new funding.

Early last year, the publishing startup Stackin - like many others - was all in on Facebook video.

Things have changed. As part of a renewed focused on social conversations (and a sudden desire to run far away from the news business) Facebook has throttled many publishers' traffic.

So Stackin started texting its readers. Often. Sometimes every day.

The media brand, which aspires to demystify personal finance information for a millennial audience, still makes a lot of short form social video content. But in a short period of time, it has radically shifted its business model to become a direct-to-consumer publisher.

Stackin, founded by Woven (now Uproxx) cofounder and chairman Scott Grimes, now sees SMS and social messaging apps as its most vital channel to build an audience.


REUTERS/Gary Cameron

US dollars at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing

And rather than waiting around for Facebook's video platform to start producing any real ad revenue, Stackin has shifted its business toward generating leads for advertisers, particular a new crop of millennial-aimed financial products and fintech startups like Chimebank and Money Lion

Along with roughly 300,000 social media followers, Stackin now has 50,000 people who have opted in to receive text messages from the company. That number has jumped more than 100% per month since launching in January, and Grimes expects to end the summer with 250,000 SMS users.

Stackin now actually publishes two daily text products: "Get Invested," which offers basic tips, along with videos, trivia and polls, and "Zoey by Stackin," a personality driven SMS show launched on April 1 focused on practical financial advice.

The company still pulls in video viewers on Facebook with clips such as "Kids are Expensive AF" (true, by the way). Stackin has attracted five million video viewers to date and cranks out five original videos a week.

But the company has found that the data it can glean from that viewership is more valuable to its business. Grimes said that focusing on affiliate marketing has put Stackin on pace to bring in over $2 million in revenue this year.

And in a venture capital climate that's currently hostile to media startups, it's just raised roughly $2 million in new funding to help build its direct business. Investors in the just-closing round include Social Leverage, Wavemaker Ventures, Clocktower Ventures and Ross Mason.

"As we started building an audience on Facebook primarily, with some Instagram, we quickly figured out that that was a great place to begin a conversation," Grimes told Business Insider. "It make people aware of the brand. But there's be a lot more value in an owned relationship as opposed to relying on Facebook, which is a more passive environment."

Grimes said that when a person watches three videos about student debt, for example, that can tell Stackin that that person is likely looking for some advice on how to get out from under piles of education loans. That can help Stackin figure out what content and ads to deliver to that person next.

Stackin still has a creative services team that makes videos on behalf of paying advertisers. But it's already landed deals with 20 plus advertisers looking to use Stackin to drive purchases.

By next month, the plan is to roll out chat bots into its SMS platform, said Grimes. And Stackin will be reaching its users via Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp by the end of the year.

"Communicating daily with users is really where the company's headed," he said.