Wetpaint Starts Licensing its Facebook-Based Media Distribution Tech

Turns out all that celebrity gossip-mongering had a point.

Wetpaint, the well-funded Seattle digital media startup headed by Blue Nile co-founder Ben Elowitz, is now licensing its Facebook-focused content distribution system to outside publishers.

The first deal is with Hubert Burda Media, a German publisher that owns Web and traditional magazine titles. Terms weren’t disclosed, but it’s a very significant deal for Wetpaint in more ways than one.

Most obviously, licensing brings in another stream of revenue to add to traditional online advertising—something that media companies of all sizes are struggling to survive on. That’s a nice addition all by itself.

But here’s what’s even more significant: By selling its expertise in growing an online audience, Wetpaint moves from being just a publisher into also being a technology provider. If you didn’t catch that nuance, the press release hammers it home by describing the startup as “a technology platform company.”

“While the world watched us build this celebrity and entertainment property, we’ve been secretly building the world’s best platform for acquiring audiences,” Elowitz says. “Under the covers, we were very deliberate.”

You could sense this kind of shift coming for Wetpaint, which actually started out life as a provider of wikis and other kinds of Web-publishing software. The company, which has raised some $40 million since its founding, then changed its focus to begin publishing its own websites, particularly focused on celebrity gossip and entertainment news.

That particular category tends to be obesessively followed by young people, especially young women—a coveted demographic for advertisers. Wetpaint’s mission was … Next Page »

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