Tribune Media Invests In, Links Up With Viral Guru

Serves as Lead Investor in Dose Media's $25 Million Funding Round

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Dose Media's Emerson Spartz
Dose Media's Emerson Spartz

Tribune Media has taken a stake in a company co-founded by a man once dubbed the "King of Click Bait" by The New Yorker.

The Chicago-based media company served as the lead investor in a $25-million, Series B funding round for Dose Media, formerly known as Spartz Media, after millennial co-founder Emerson Spartz.

Tribune Media chief product officer Josh Cogswell declined to disclose how much money Tribune contributed to the round, but said investing in companies such as Dose is a key component of Tribune's digital growth strategy.

"Traditional media is now realizing the importance of leveraging data science and technology in the right way," he said.

Tribune and Dose executives characterized the investment as more of a partnership than a strictly financial transaction.

Tribune Media, which owns local television stations and a cable channel (WGN America), among other media properties, will get the benefit of Dose's proprietary technologies, which are designed to help predict what content will go viral, they said.

"His team are just rock stars," Mr. Cogswell said of Mr. Spartz and his Chicago-based company of 40 full-time employees, operators of and

Tribune is planning to build new national content verticals, Mr. Cogswell said, which could seemingly benefit from Dose's predictive technologies.

Tribune and Dose will also work together to develop a native advertising product that will use Dose's technologies on behalf of brands.

"We knew that we would create the most value with a partnership that went beyond just a capital relationship," Mr. Spartz said.

Dose will use the $25 million to hire new employees, to continue developing its publishing platform, and to build out a video studio that will eventually produce branded video content, according to Mr. Spartz. The company's first Series A funding round, in October 2013, brought in $8 million.

"We've mostly been focused on building the product," Mr. Spartz said of Dose's fledgling branded content offering. "We haven't entered the market yet." So far, Dose has relied on programmatic advertising to make money.

As part of the deal, Mr. Cogswell said Tribune Media will get "exclusive access" to Dose's audiences, and will be able to sell advertising against them. Dose claims 50 million monthly unique visitors, up from 12 million a year ago.

While Dose's technologies will first be applied to Tribune Media's digital properties, Mr. Cogswell predicted that they could eventually be used for the company's TV channels, to "help inform the programming cycle" and create new programming.

As for that New Yorker "Click Bait" profile, which created quite the stir in the media industry when it was published last year, Mr. Spartz said that it's had some tangible benefits for him. "It certainly led to some valuable conversations and introductions," he said.

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