Lauren Goode

Recent Posts by Lauren Goode

StumbleUpon Gets a Face-Lift and Some Boldfaced Names

StumbleUpon, the social discovery engine that was famously acquired by eBay only to take itself private again two years later, is reinventing itself again.

The company is rolling out a newly redesigned Web site that features a new logo, new colors and an integrated “Explore Box,” or search engine, that had previously only been available in beta.

StumbleUpon has also signed up 250 partners for channels on the site, which will act as verticals users can “follow” in order to get the interesting content they want. The partners include such Web sites as Yelp, Gilt Groupe, Vanity Fair and Funny or Die, as well high-profile names like actor Jim Carrey, athletes Mariano Rivera and Paul Pierce, and late-night TV host Chelsea Handler.

While StumbleUpon is getting a face-lift and adding some boldfaced names, it isn’t changing any of its back-end technology: Users will still “stumble” from site to site, which will be served up to them based on StumbleUpon’s algorithm that factors in interests, likes and your friends’ interests.

StumbleUpon founder and CEO Garrett Camp said the redesign was spurred by feedback the company was getting from users in focus groups. Basically, while the users liked the site’s signature stumbling action (which I previously called a procrastinator’s friend and insomniac’s dream), they wanted easier ways to follow their favorite brands and content.

“Some of the words we used when describing StumbleUpon were surprising, adventurous, exciting, and when we put our logo in brand in front of test users, they weren’t saying that,” Camp said. “We wanted to make it that for them, while also simplifying the site.”

StumbleUpon launched in 2001 as a way for people to find interesting content on the Web. In 2007, the company was acquired by eBay for $75 million. Then, in 2009, Camp, his co-founder Geoff Smith and other investors bought the company back and took it private again. The site went through a minor refresh then, but these new updates mark the first major visual changes to StumbleUpon since it was created. The company currently claims 20 million users and more than 1.2 billion stumbles per month.

While recent data showed that StumbleUpon is now the biggest referrer of traffic to other U.S. Web sites — beating out even Facebook for that title — the changes come as giants like Google and Facebook are dominating the Web ad space, with other Web services clawing for more market share, as my colleague Peter Kafka reported earlier. StumbleUpon’s entire revenue model is advertising — around 3 to 5 percent of all stumbles will land on an ad — and the company is uncertain whether these new celeb channels will end up being new ad space.

It’s the Wild Wild Web out there, kids.

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