BUSINESS

Bell Media bets on social media site Hubub with $5 million, stake in company

10/01/2014 06:33 EDT | Updated 12/01/2014 05:59 EST
TORONTO - Canadian social media startup Hubub is getting a $5-million cash injection from Bell Media, as part of its effort to launch a competitor to Facebook and Twitter.

The telecommunications company, which owns a slate of TV channels and radio stations across the country, said Wednesday that it will also dedicate "significant marketing resources" to grow the presence of the social network in Canada.

As part of the agreement, Bell Media (TSX:BCE) will earn more equity in the company when its Canadian audience grows and also retains exclusive rights to monetize the Hubub pages within the country.

Hubub is designed as the homebase for conversations on various topics, combining both user-created content and stories pulled from the web through "hububs," or channels that house each topic.

Users can interact on controversial subjects like cyber bullying, buzzy celebrity stories or breaking news events of the day. Polls and links to news articles are designed to advance the conversation.

In many ways Hubub is akin to online forums that were so popular during the dawn of the Internet, but with a visual spin that's similar to Pinterest.

While the social media platform has largely been off the radar of most web users, Hubub has been quietly gathering financial support to build its staff, including $8.5-million of initial funding in February.

Bell Media has said it will create "hububs" for its brands, TV series like "Orphan Black" and its roster of radio hosts, which include the personalities of sports network TSN.

"We see Hubub at the intersection of social and search, the two digital categories that continue to see significant growth," said Kevin Crull, president of Bell Media, in a release.

"It's also the perfect social complement to our media properties and talent, leveraging the significant conversation around news, sports, and entertainment that originate with our brands."

Hubub plans to release a mobile app this month with a commercial launch slated for later in the fall.

A new roster of social media platforms have been cropping up this year to compete with the giants.

Developers of Ello hope to make the ad-free social network an appealing competitor to Facebook, while Bubblews wants to build its social network by paying users to post content.

Marketing hooks aside, the history of social media is littered with casualties that were hot for a moment and then fumbled their way into obscurity.

Friendster was one of the first ways to interact with friends outside of email, but after losing its position to MySpace, the company reworked its website into a home for social gaming.

Even web giants Google has struggled to keep users engaged on its Google Plus social site, despite deep integration with other popular areas of its business like Gmail and smartphones on the Android operating system.

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