Upworthy tries to shake ‘clickbait’ stigma with original content

The video-sharing platform plans to use data mining to shape its content strategy in a move to restore its reputation.
July 9, 2015

Upworthy is banking on original video content to restore its reputation as a respectable site worth watching, without the hyperbolic “click-bait” intros.

A Slideshare presentation published by the video-sharing platform on July 8 told the story of its dramatic rise and plateau, and why it has decided it’s time to get original.

“You probably couldn’t escape (Upworthy) in your Facebook feed at one time,” said Amy O’Leary who authored the presentation. O’Leary joined Upworthy as its editorial director in February 2015.

She went on to detail how Upworthy plans to return to those heady days of ubiquity after weathering a stormy year related to its “click-bait” tactics. Since 2014, Upworthy has been hammered by critics for its use of content curation and cliffhanger lead-ins that tempt readers to click to find out “what happens next!”

Examples include “This video could change how happy you are with your entire week” and “A Neo-Nazi walked into a Jewish man’s antique store. Can you guess what happens next?

“A lot of people think of Upworthy and think: ‘Ugh. I hate those annoying clickbait headlines,'” said O’Leary in the presentation.

To that end, the platform is now planning on using data mined from users to figure out the best form of original video and long-form content to create.

Upworthy has already taken a stab at originals. Its Humanity FTW series, which highlights heart-warming good deeds (the first episode profiled a pizzeria with a “pay-it-forward” policy) debuted in February and generated 29 million views on the site.

In June 2014, The Onion launched Clickhole, a site parodying clickbait material, with titles such as “This cartoon does a bad job of explaining what privilege is” and “Amazing! This waitress got his order wrong, but this man ate it anyway!

In August of 2014, Facebook started penalizing sites that use clickbait headlines by making them harder to be seen in a timeline. Upworthy felt the sting, and according to reports, its readership was cut in half.

According to Upworthy’s blog, more details on how the strategy will be rolled out will be made public over the coming weeks.

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