StumbleUpon Advertising

external image stumbleupon-logo.jpg


StumbleUpon, founded in 2001, is an internet browser application and Internet community that helps users discover and share websites. It is a personalized website recommendation engine which uses peer and social-networking principles to provide a “channel-surfing” experience for the web. By simply clicking the "stumble" button, the site will take you to various popular sites of your interest. Sites can also be rated by viewers making the most popular sites shown to viewers with that interest. Stumupon is updated frequently. Sites that aren’t rated as popular amogst viewers will be taken off the site. This makes for the site to be most interesting to viewers of whatever interest. The site offers almost 500 various topics to choose from making each persons unique interests available.

How does it work?

The purpose of StumbleUpon is to easily find great websites and content that you probably wouldn’t find using a search engine or simply didn’t know existed. The most basic use of the application is clicking the ‘Stumble!’ button and the service will immediately direct you to a website explicitly recommended for you. Recommendations are based on user-defined preferences and by friends or one of 8+ million other websurfers with interests similar to yours. StumbleUpon uses a Thumbs-Up or Thumbs-Down rating system to form collaborative opinions on website favorability. Each time the 'Stumble' button is clicked, the user is presented with a high quality web site based on the user’s likes and dislikes and the collective opinions of other like-minded web surfers.

The StumbleUpon Toolbar

StumbleUpon as an Advertising Vehicle

StumbleUpon Advertising exposes sites to millions, bringing highly targeted users directly to the site with one click of the ‘Stumble’ button. StumbleUpon uses knowledge of user preferences to deliver targeted advertising. A small proportion of the "stumbles" users come across are sponsored pages matching their topics of interest. StumbleUpon allows for quick and easy advertising campaigns to be set up based on web category, demographics, geographics, and budget. The advertiser selects the target audience for their web-page, then StumbleUpon starts delivering traffic directly to the website. The advertiser can monitor their account with real-time user comments and ratings and see which campaigns are performing best.

Unlike traditional online advertising, with StumbleUpon advertising there are no pop-ups, interstitials, or click-throughs. This is beneficial to the advertiser because it provides legitimacy to the website with little or no evidence that the website is indeed an advertisement; users view, rate, and comment on the website just as any other.

Limitations and Risks

StumbleUpon is a powerful tool for advertising to savvy internet users. However, this is also one of its greatest downfalls. StumbleUpon solely uses the internet as its advertising medium; other mass media such as television and radio are completely out of the equation.

Perhaps the most important risk for advertising with StumbleUpon is that the ad must be willingly exposed to criticism from the public for better or for worse. Negative feedback from the public is exposed for all to see and contribute to the possible downfall of a campaign.

Another notable risk for using StumbleUpon to direct traffic to a website is breaching the allotted bandwidth cap set by the the website's host provider. If a site becomes extremely popular, there may have to be additional overhead payed to keep the website running.

StumbleUpon-1.jpg Homepage


Ad Campaign toolset

The advertiser pays only for actual views of the site (impressions) with complete control of the budget. There are no minimum or maximum expenditure requirements; the advertiser has the flexibility to spend as much or as little as needed. Cost is calculated on a per-impression basis, starting at around five cents per impression.

The catch is, if StumbleUpon users don't like the ad, it will be effectively pulled back from rotation, meaning fewer impressions. If, for instance, an advertiser orders $10,000 worth of ads but no one likes the ad, it may take a very long time to spend the money. On the flipside, a well-accepted ad will quickly rack up tons of impressions. Overall, general manager Michael Buher related that most ads do pretty well under the system. "We track all the ratings of all the content and ads are rated only slightly less than traditional content," he said. "The community is actually very accepting of advertising."

Reach and Frequency

StumbleUpon by its very nature provides excellent reach to highly-targeted demographics chosen from millions of “stumblers” worldwide. Websites are viewed by a user once, the user rates the website thumbs-up or thumbs-down, and the website is never shown to the user again. As such, frequency is almost entirely reliant on the user’s choice to view the website again on their own terms. In emerging media language, that means an ad’s frequency is almost entirely dependent on it going viral and collecting additional un-paid (organic) views.

stumbleupon electronic billboard


The very nature of websites as an advertising medium means that any ad will be on a continuous advertising schedule as long as the website is up and running.

StumbleUpon Advertising provides easy and informative tools to set and monitor campaign schedules. Daily statistics of the campaign are provided, including number of paid views, number of un-paid (organic) views, and user reviews and approval ratings. The campaign can be modified on-the-fly to meet advertising goals.


StumbleUpon Advertising is an effective way to reach a large, media-savvy audience. People who use StumbleUpon are excited about websites, photos, videos, and blogs. They’re eager to try new products and explore new services. Their demographics includes young males who are college graduates with a low income. (

Current Advertisers

Over 35,000 registered advertisers have used StumbleUpon advertising to drive traffic to their sites, including: Time, MTV, NBC and thousands of small business owners.


See Also

Social Media
Google Adsense


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Holahan, Catherine (10/23/2007). StumbleUpon’s ‘Social Search’ Upgrade.
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Wasserman, Todd (7/28/2008). Bright Idea No. 8: Mob Rule for Ads.
Brandweek Vol. 49, Issue 28. Retrieved from