about  /   archives  /   contact  /   subscribe  /   twitter    
Share this entry
Make this entry better

What are we missing? Is there a key link we skipped, or a part of the story we got wrong?

Let us know — we’re counting on you to help Encyclo get better.

Put Encyclo on your site
Embed this Encyclo entry in your blog or webpage by copying this code into your HTML:

Key links:
Primary website:
Primary Twitter:
@upworthy

Editor’s Note: Encyclo has not been regularly updated since August 2014, so information posted here is likely to be out of date and may be no longer accurate. It’s best used as a snapshot of the media landscape at that point in time.

Upworthy is a media marketing company that repackages “meaningful” content from around the web in order to make it more popular on social media.

In March of 2012, Eli Pariser — formerly of MoveOn.org — and Peter Koechly — formerly of The Onion — teamed up to create a concept they hoped would be both socially significant and wildly popular. By doing extensive testing of a headline’s popularity before promoting it on Facebook or Twitter, Upworthy experienced significant early growth. Around the one year mark, they had about 10 million unique monthly views. By July of 2013, they had surpassed 30 million, making it one of the fastest growing digital media companies in history. It was also among the most popular sites on Facebook. Upworthy’s traffic began to slip in early 2014.

Upworthy’s launch was funded by Chris Hughes, formerly of Facebook, current owner of The New Republic. They later announced that they had been afforded $4 million from angel funders. In 2013, it announced an $8 million round of funding and plans to double its staff — by 2014, it had a staff of 50 — and expand into new verticals. Later that year, it announced the launch of a global health and poverty section funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its primary initial source of earned revenue was by charging nonprofits for directing potential donors toward them. Long term, however, Upworthy plans to be funded entirely by ad revenue, and is pursuing sponsored content deals with a variety of brands. It launched its first native advertising campaign in 2014 and later that year reported that its native advertising was far outpacing its editorial content in traffic, attention, and shares.

Upworthy began content partnerships with ProPublica, Human Rights Watch, and Climate Nexus in 2014.

The viral popularity of the content Upworthy aggregates and repackages can be compared to BuzzFeed‘s popularity and growth, but with an added mission for social justice. Causes that Upworthy has attempted to promote include gay rights, cancer research, veteran’s issues and education. Like BuzzFeed, Upworthy has been criticized for formulaic headlines in an attempt to manufacture viral content, as well as its heavy reliance on Facebook for traffic, though it has also been praised for its viral success.

In 2014, Upworthy publicly released to code to track its internally developed audience engagement metric, attention minutes.

Peers, allies, & competitors:

Recent Nieman Lab coverage:
April 13, 2016 / Ricardo Bilton
A year into its new original content strategy, Upworthy is focusing on do-good videos instead of clickbait — 2015 was the year that Upworthy not only gave up on clickbait, but apologized for helping it spread. “We sort of unleashed a monster. Sorry for that,” Upworthy co-founder Peter Koechley said last March, referring to...
July 8, 2015 / Joseph Lichterman
How Upworthy is using data to move beyond clickbait and curation — The jokes in Upworthy writer Eric March’s piece “5 incredibly delicious chain restaurants you should never, ever eat at and 1 you should but can’t” are unrelenting. Even though fast food is terrib...
June 25, 2015 / John Dyer
From Nieman Reports: Solutions journalism brings data and good news together to engage readers — Journalists make careers out of covering the symptoms and causes of bad urban public schools, writing tragedies about students falling through the cracks, scoring scoops from school board investigations, and chasing scan...
Jan. 14, 2015 / Caroline O'Donovan
Q&A: Amy O’Leary on eight years of navigating digital culture change at The New York Times — When Amy O’Leary announced in early January that she was leaving The New York Times to become editorial director at Upworthy, there was a collective jaw-drop in the digital journalism community. What happened next ...
Jan. 12, 2015 / Simon Owens
Shuffle wants to use Tinder-style swiping to learn what news you want on your phone — In many ways, Alex Skatell seems like the last person in the world who would be developing a news product that could be described as anti-clickbait. After all, Skatell launched the Independent Journal Review (IJReview fo...

Recently around the web, from Mediagazer:

Primary author: Caroline O'Donovan. Main text last updated: September 11, 2014.
Make this entry better
How could this entry improve? What's missing, unclear, or wrong?
Name (optional)
Email (optional)
Explore: The Daily
Daily logo

The Daily was a tablet- and mobile-based, general-interest daily news publication owned by News Corp. The Daily was launched in February 2011 as the first tablet-specific publication of its kind and was scheduled to cease publishing in December 2012, with its technology and some staff folded into the New York Post. News Corp. initially invested $30…

Put Encyclo on your site
Embed this Encyclo entry in your blog or webpage by copying this code into your HTML:

Encyclo is made possible by a grant from the Knight Foundation.
The Nieman Journalism Lab is a collaborative attempt to figure out how quality journalism can survive and thrive in the Internet age.
Some rights reserved. Copyright information »