Photo: Courtesy of Upworthy.
Guys, we're not going to criticize anyone for click-baiting. We've all done it. But, as with anything, there are levels. There is hyperbole and the occasional withholding comment, and then there is the pulling at your bleeding heartstrings with the subtlety of a monster truck.
The Atlantic has an in-depth look at just what goes into the development of this incredibly particular, stylized method of headline-writing today, and we recommend you read it if you're at all curious about digital media. After all, this article is just the tip of the iceberg about the companies who've found a way to game a system of share-ability. Get the tears running, make 'em feel good, and don't tell 'em the whole story — that's Click 101.
For any of you readers who work in media or follow digital media companies like Upworthy, Gawker Media, Buzzfeed, PolicyMic, and yes, Refinery29, you know what Robinson Meyer is trying to put his finger on when he muses about the strategies that generate buzz on Facebook. On the subject of Upworthy specifically, he writes: "There’s something about the Upworthy headline idiom — confident, in the first or second person, saccharine to the point of grossness (maybe...smarmy?) — that seems to work right now, that seems to get people to click while they are browsing Facebook."
Upworthy's particular approach can be alternately inspiring, annoying, and just plain hilarious. An Upworthy generator brought endless joy to this writer; on the other hand, said writer is also the kind of person who clicks "Disagree" out of pure spite when a pop-up video on Upworthy writes something like, "It's nice to be reminded of the good in the world, and it should happen more often." On the other hand, the reason Upworthy does so well is that it merges the gap between the slightly embarrassing but irresistibly clickable content on Buzzfeed and content that sheds positive light on social justice, political activism, international awareness, and empathy. People feel good about themselves when they share this stuff. (Distilled, social media-friendly versions of those emotions are also what made Kony 2012 possible — but hey, it happens.)
And, the strategy does work. Upworthy has reported whopping numbers. This year alone it rose to 87 million, and the majority of that is from Facebook. What started as a place to talk to your friends has now become an RSS feed — with the occasional party pic sprinkled in. That's led to an even more uncertain future for journalists who want to do "real journalism," marketers who want to bring in readers in droves, and people who want to do a bit of both. As readers, being informed of the inner-workings of the media circus can be enlightening, to say the least. Do check the article out — and hey, don't forget to follow us on Facebook! (The Atlantic)