Maybe journalism of the future will go to its audience instead of relying on its audience to seek it out

An Upworthy info-graphic

An Upworthy info-graphic

Maybe news of the future is meant to be stumbled upon.  Maybe journalists of the future will have to work a little harder–no, scratch that.  Maybe journalists of the future will have to work a little differently.  The Atlantic‘s article titled

Upworthy: I Thought This Website Was Crazy, but What Happened Next Changed Everything

dissects the idea behind and the inner-workings of Upworthy, a news site whose motto is “Things that matter.  Pass ’em on.”

Upworthy works on social media networks and, according to The Atlantic’s article, “has mastered the viral arts with a unique blend of A/B technology and lily-white earnestness.”  Apparently, it tests multiple headlines on a test audience for each of its short stories, choses the most popular one, and then

“blasts it out on social media,”

relying on the social media-user to then do the rest of the work, to be part of the news-sharing process.

Apparently, again, according to The Atlantic‘s article, Upworthy

“surpassed 50 million unique visitors”

in October, a number which rivals and FoxNews.

How does it get its money?  Well, its endorsed and paid by the Gates Foundation with the deal made that it popularize “stuff that matters” like the, according to the article, under-covered issues like the health and poverty of the lower third of the world’s people.

An Upworthy info-graphic

Another Upworthy info-graphic

Read The Atlantic‘s article.  What do you think about the way The Atlantic article’s journalist seems to emulate the style of Upworthy?  Read about the Upworthy catchy titles that draw social media users to click.  See this example of an Upworthy article

“Everyone Poops, But 2.6 Billion People Do It In A Really Crappy Way”

What do you think of the endorsement by the Gate’s Foundation?  What do you think of the social media-user’s role in news of this site’s?  Does it come off as a reliable source–what role do the website’s jokes play?  Could this be a sort of model for the way of future news?


About Lindsey Scullen

I study Comparative Literature, Spanish, Complex Systems and Program in the Environment at the University of Michigan. I'm an intern for the Environment Report and Editor of the Environment Account.

4 Responses to “Maybe journalism of the future will go to its audience instead of relying on its audience to seek it out”

  1. I thought the Atlantic’s article about UpWorthy was an interesting examination of a new news outlet that has become wildly successful. The article was well in-tune with its intended audience, because people who care about UpWorthy are going to to care about this article, and are obviously already appreciators of this casual, comic writing style. I think he nailed it. The article addressed both perspectives on UpWorthy’s catchy, clicky headlines and made for a balanced and interesting piece.

    I think the endorsement by the Gates Foundation is important to point out, because it means that the news on UpWorthy is not exactly unbiased. I wasn’t aware of that before reading this article, but it makes sense, given what type of news UpWorthy tends to publish and the relatively socially liberal angle of their pieces.

    I think it’s genius that UpWorthy has crafted a tool that allows social-media users to do the heavy-lifting a sharing for them. It must significantly reduce their cost, and they simply exploit a free technology that a majority of the world is already using multiple times a day. I think this sort of system is truly the future of news. I was speaking with a friend the other day about Facebook and how it had become my main news platform. I found out that Obama had been re-elected and that Bin Laden had been killed by checking my Facebook news feed. I think this kind of sharing has the potential to make any story, any business, or any person go “viral” so to speak.

  2. Upworthy is actually one of my main news sources today. I first ran across its stories on facebook and when I clicked on one to watch it asked me to put in my email to subscribe, which I did. Now I get emails daily from them on the most popular stories. I like how the articles and videos are made in such a positive and inspiring light, but I can see how some critics could get annoyed. I think that the upbeat style of writing and video news production has done very well for Upworthy and the writer from The Atlantic may have been trying to emulate this style to see if it would work for him.

    I think having a catchy title is everything and like Emilia said in class, you could have an amazing story but without a catchy title it will not sell. The title is what readers look at when deciding to read or move onto another article. Upworthy does a great job at coming up with creative titles that often have puns to them and use humor.

    I think that the Gate’s Foundation endorsement is going to a good cause, but I wonder if it is the best cause? I think social media is a huge part of getting the word about world-wide disease out to the general public, but I don’t think the source looks as reliable when coming across it on a social media website. I think in the future social media will still be a big part of how we get our daily news and hopefully there will be more serious social media websites we can go to to get news we can trust.

  3. Upworthy is a really interesting and innovative news site. Whether or not you agree that it is a “reliable” news source, it has done something right as it extremely successful. It’s success is largely due to the fact that it is one of the only news outlets that focuses solely on positive news. I think society is largely turned off by news, especially televised news, because it airs the negative things going on in the world and rarely focuses on the positives. Because it is endorsed by the Gate’s Foundation with the intention of exposing these noteworthy news topics, there will be some bias, which effects its reliability.

    The catchy titles and the jokes are what make it even more appealing. Some of the topics that are posted about can be rather heavy hearted. I can name 4 or 5 things I have stumbled upon on Upworthy that have made me cry, so the witty headlines are a nice way to lighten the mood and keep me interested in the site.

    It’s innovative. Maybe not the most reliable news source though.

  4. I agree with everyone so far in that I do not consider upworthy a reliable news source, yet I watch at least one video from the site each day. Whether it’s newsy or reliable or not, it has my attention.

    I also appreciated how the author of The Atlantic article (and Lindsey) embraced upworthy’s style and used big bold font right in the middle of the text. If I’m reading something online, it’s likely that I will get bored and stop halfway through, but scrolling down to a catchy point usually keeps my interest. I see this as becoming a bigger part of news stories (but I could also see the technique being used too much and lose it’s pull).

    While I’m happy the author included opinions of journalists that dislike upworthy, I agree with the general tone of the article that this is a good way to get news across. Perhaps this new way of engaging readers is what journalism is moving towards. The bright colors and simple fonts upworthy uses are much more welcoming than even The Atlantic’s article. Why does an internet news source have to mirror a newspaper? I say it doesn’t. Even though the cause or the funding might not be mirrored, I think upworthy’s style is, well, upworthy.

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