1. Posted:

    You Changed This Man’s Life And Perhaps The Lives Of Thousands More

    We love to find out when our posts are making a real difference in people’s lives. We’ve shared with you some of our favorite examples of this in the past, and today we are moved to be sharing another one.

    So, you may be sick of watching people getting ice dumped over their heads. But if you’re one of the millions of people who took time to watch this video in the last 24 hours, you also know that the cause is really important.

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    Here’s the thing that stood out to us from the video: Yes, the ice bucket challenge may be goofy. But ALS — a debilitating, really scary disease — may never have this kind of spotlight again, and because there’s no profit incentive to invest in a cure, donations are the best hope.

    Since we posted it yesterday, not only have millions of people watched and shared it, but Anthony, the young man in the video, told us that it spurred tens of thousands of dollars in donations to his fundraiser. He also has thousands of emails in his inbox from people reaching out, and a bunch of major TV shows have reached out to him.

    A bunch of us on the Upworthy team are chipping in to Anthony’s fundraiser here, and we wanted to give y’all the opportunity to do the same. If you’re moved by the video and want to contribute to the ALS Therapy Development Institute, just click here.

    We’ll let you know how it goes. And as always, we feel really lucky to be surrounded by such a caring, good-spirited community of people.

    UPDATE: Wow, we’re blown away. On Thursday, the day that we featured this video on the site, the ALS Association reportedly raised $10 million! Not too shabby, y’all. 


  2. Posted:

    Cynics Beware: People Watched 3 Videos On The Internet, And It Made An Actual Difference

    Last month, you gave some serious lift to three videos our curators found about stigmatized mental health issuesgender identity, and the whole question of who should control the Internet. And you took time to care this much while lots of folks in the country were focusing on pop stars and movie stars fighting in exclusive Spanish clubs, the scourge of beach-induced public sexcapades, and, of course, cat-based listicles. This is why we do what we do. 

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    We’re always glad when you embrace important stuff like the videos above. It reflects a choice to spend your precious time with important ideas and perspective-shifting stories. But occasionally, we’ll post something on the site and it’ll take on a life of its own. You'll do more than just watch and share the videos — they'll register some real impact. We'd love to take a moment to share three of these stories with you. 

    The Story Of The Little Indie Documentary That Could

    When we first happened upon the trailer for Sasha Joseph Neulinger’s “Rewind to Fast-Forward,” his was just one of many hopeful Kickstarter projects floating around the Internet. A multi-generational survivor of sexual abuse, Sasha had compiled over 200 hours of home video footage and wanted to tell the harrowing story of his family’s experience with abuse and healing. It was clear from the video that this documentary wasn’t just a passion project but a deeply personal form of therapy he was willing to bravely share with the world.

    Unfortunately, we don’t yet live in a world where stories like Sasha’s have the funding or venue they surely deserve. It’s hard enough to find funding to make independent documentaries, but for a topic this emotionally intense and personal? Let’s just say the odds weren’t great.

    One of our curators, Brandon Weber, found the trailer on our Facebook page and posted Sasha’s project on the site on April 1. The response was as surprising as it was immediate. In a week, Sasha’s project raised $137,000 with the lion’s share of that funding coming directly from Upworthy viewers:

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    This right here is all about your power to make something real…

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    The Story Of The 37-Second Viral Video That Won A F&$@ing Peabody

    At Upworthy, we’ve had the privilege of watching many, many posts get millions of views. Sometimes we have a sense of the posts that’ll go big, but in most cases we’re just along for the ride like everyone else. There is no more instructive example of that phenomenon than Samantha Stendal and Aaron Blanton’s “A Needed Response.”

    Shot on a home video camera with just two actors, the 37-second video was the perfect, succinct response to the Steubenville case and the rape-apologia-infused media coverage of it. After Adam Mordecai posted it to Upworthy, the video got about 1.8 million views basically overnight.

    That exposure brought a lot of attention, but probably none more unexpected than that of the Peabody Awards, probably the most prestigious public-service-centered award in radio, television, and online media. The judges unanimously awarded “A Needed Response” with a Peabody, the first ever for a viral video.

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    While the accolades are certainly nice and affirming, we think the real takeaway here is that in the world of viral videos that have something to say, high production values and big budgets are way less important than passion, narrative, and purpose. The Peabody is mostly proof that you now have the power to bubble up truly important things from even the most obscure corners of the Internet.

    (Also, Aaron and Samantha are both recent college grads. So at a time when most young folks are trying to figure out a way to consistently get their laundry done, they’re both Peabody Award winners. You can’t make this stuff up. )

    The Story Of The John Oliver Segment That Shut Down The FCC Servers

    We can’t take credit for all of this because John Oliver is totally a national treasure who could probably get people to do things by reading the ingredients list on a cereal box. But we couldn’t not talk about this amazing segment he did on the FCC and net neutrality.

    After we posted it and linked prominently to the FCC comments section, 1.8 million folks on Upworthy saw and shared John’s amazing 13-minute rant that skewered cronyism in the FCC and the bore-to-death strategy of hiding important policy discussions like net neutrality beneath layers of sleep-inducing verbiage. The result was astounding: 300,000 emails sent to the special inbox for Open Internet issues, 45,000 comments (the previous high was under 2,000), and, briefly, an overwhelmed and crashing server at the FCC.

    The impact was especially sweet because of how difficult getting folks to take action on net neutrality has been and how very important the issue actually is. John Oliver, and we think you as well, help prove that if given the right prompts and presentation, even seemingly boring topics stand a chance of captivating the American attention. 

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    We love stories like this … and they’re not the only ones. From raising gobs of money for pancreatic cancer research to promoting broader representation for minorities in film and media to changing the way the girls’ toy aisle looks to laying the groundwork for institutional and political change, we’re seeing the power you have to make impact in real time. 


  3. Posted:

    Look Ma, Upworthy Is An Actual Business Now

    You might wonder: What’s Upworthy’s business model? (Or you might not. If that’s the case, you can stop reading here since this whole post is about business-y stuff.)

    We announced Upworthy’s plans to start running an actual makes-money-and-doesn’t-just-spend-it business back in April. You can read that whole post, but here’s the upshot: We decided to collaborate with brands and nonprofits to find topics of shared interest and get tons of people talking about them by highlighting the best of their content, curating great videos and graphics from across the web, and engaging Upworthy’s passionate, influential community to spread the word. Now, three months later, we’re here with an update on how it’s all going.

    The good news: Our partners, both brands and not-for-profits, are signing up quickly and finding the collaborations extremely valuable. (We actually think this is part of a bigger trend of companies finding huge success connecting with consumers around shared values.)

    A joint study between Google, TNS, and Ogilvy confirms what we’ve been seeing firsthand: There’s a real hunger in our society to connect with brands on a meaningful level, to see their advertising rooted in something purposeful and important. Celebrity exposés and cute-animal listicles aren’t the only things that can drive traffic and engagement on the Internet. Deep down, people want more than that and expect more from brands than just shiny new products.

    The reaction from our audience to our collaborations is evidence of just this behavior. How do we know?

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    Statistically, our community is actually responding more strongly to branded posts than non-branded ones. Ad content sees more interactions per posts in terms of views, Attention Minutes, and shares than our average posts do. If this all sounds a little counterintuitive (“People hate ads! How could they be performing better on your site?!”), we think the key has actually been twofold: We try to be very thoughtful in the kinds of campaigns we’ll work with, and we’ve taken pains to be radically transparent with our community when content is connected with a paid campaign. That combination has been powerful in communicating that we’re both selective and stand for something, which we think has been valuable for our community and collaborators alike.

    On a campaign level, we’ve been wholly pleased by how meaty and substantive our early campaigns have been. These collaborations have centered on issues that are important but not always easy to talk about — like our work with the GUESS Foundation on a campaign against sexual violence and norms of consent, with Unilever’s Project Sunlight on making the world better and more sustainable for our children, and with COVERGIRL on female empowerment.

    We’ve worked with 12 brands and 13 nonprofits to lift up things that really matter. It’s encouraging to see this approach working for them, as well:

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    It’s tempting to think that this early success stems from some wizard-like ability to conjure magical amounts of social action as we please — or even just our extra effort to make sure we get this right out of the gate. But when we broaden the comparison and look beyond Upworthy, we can see that there’s a bigger story here for purpose-driven content. Per post, our content drives 29x the shares versus the average of the top 25 media sites. Even more surprisingly, our branded content delivers 64x more than the top 25, branded or not.

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    So today, we’re happy to announce some really exciting new partners. Just this week we’re kicking off a collaboration with Pantene on their #sorrynotsorry campaign to talk about the unrealistic societal expectations women face. In the coming months, we’ll be collaborating with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Virgin Mobile, Nestle’s new all-natural line, Purina Beyond, and will be wrapping up a campaign to raise the minimum wage with Gap Inc. — all devoted to bringing attention to things that matter. We’re also excited for a unique partnership with IPG Mediabrands, one of the biggest global ad agencies, on a program designed to use advertising as a catalyst for social good (more details to come when it launches later this year).

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    Now don’t get us wrong — this process hasn’t been frictionless. With a passionate, engaged audience like ours, we knew we’d have to keep our eyes and ears open when introducing advertising onto the site. The advertising itself also required an adjustment period with our collaborators. After all, we weren’t just slapping banner ads on our page; we were asking partners to talk about real, significant topics from their point of view. But we’re getting better with time, learning what’s working from feedback and performance data, and adding more context and transparency with each new program.

    It’s early yet, but we think we’re on to something here. We’ve approached advertising on Upworthy very carefully, and we’ll continue to do so. In just these first three months, Upworthy Collaborations has helped us hire folks to find and curate more and more of the stuff that our community cares about. We believe this is our best path to propel our mission forward.

    We’ve always been rooted in and humbled by how many of you care about the issues that face our world. It’s what makes our site possible and what guides us when we take uncertain steps into unexplored territory. Upworthy community: Keep sharing and keeping us honest. Collaborators: Keep it coming!


  4. Posted:

    Welcome Kim Kelleher!

    As Upworthy grows, we’re constantly looking for smart, savvy, experienced people to help shape our next steps. We started with a dream and a couple dozen color-coded spreadsheets - it’s been both dizzying and amazing to watch Upworthy grow and develop what we think is one of the sharpest teams in online publishing.

    So we’re thrilled to announce that Kimberly Kelleher has joined our Board of Directors. In Kim’s 20 years in the media industry, she’s been President of Say Media, Worldwide Publisher of Time, and Vice President/Publisher of SELF Magazine, to name just a few. She was Advertising Age’s Publisher Of The Year; she’s on the board of Board of the American Advertising Federation (the country’s oldest advertising trade association); and is President-Elect of New York Women in Communications, which runs the prestigious Matrix Awards. Over the past 50 years, that award has gone to incredible, groundbreaking women like Gloria Steinem, Toni Morrison, and Queen Latifah.

    Kim’s deep knowledge of the publishing industry — and her strong experimental streak — are a perfect fit for Upworthy’s next chapter. Here’s a few words from Kim…

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    Though she’s a well-pedigreed and deeply impressive badass, she’s also an actual human being, too! She has a wonderful husband two adorable boys,and enjoys spending time on the illustrious Jersey Shore.

    From the entire Upworthy team - welcome Kim!

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  5. Posted:

    The Code [Literally] To What Lies Between The Click And The Share. Yours, For Free… Really.

    In the age of ever-present social media, our collective attentions have never been spread thinner. According to Facebook, each user has the potential to be served 1,500 stories in their newsfeed each time. For a heavy user, that number could be as much as 15,000. In this climate, how do you get people to pay attention? And, more importantly, how do you know they’re actually engaged?

    Clicks and pageviews, long the industry standards, are drastically ill-equipped for the job. Even the share isn’t a surefire measure that the user has spent any time engaging with the content itself. It’s in everyone’s interest — from publishers to readers to advertisers — to move to a metric that more fully measures attention spent consuming content. In other words, the best way to answer the question is to measure what happens between the click and the share. Enter Attention Minutes.

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    We’ve previously detailed our intention to switch the way we measure user engagement to a more nuanced, holistic measure. In brief, Attention Minutes measures everything from video player signals about whether a video is currently playing to a user’s mouse movements to which browser tab is currently open — all to determine whether the user is still engaged. The result is a fine-grained and unforgiving metric that tells us whether people are really engaged with our content or have moved on to the next thing. Today, we’re publicly releasing sample code for Attention Minutes.

    You’re more than welcome to use our code as a starting point to build Attention Minutes into your system, but if you’re not in a place to do that (it requires a bit of engineering and a data processing system), Chartbeat has a great out-of-the-box solution as well. We’re also happy to announce that Parse.ly, one of the finest platforms for online content measurement, is going to start using our Attention Minutes code for all of their clients:

    "The vision behind Upworthy’s Attention Minutes push has gotten us very excited to include this capability in our platform for all our clients — everyone should be looking at a clean signal for attention," said Andrew Montalenti, CTO of Parse.ly. (Parse.ly is a provider of content analytics solutions for publishers whose clients include Conde Nast, Fox News, Atlantic Media, and The Cheezburger Network.)

    Attention Minutes is the next step in engagement metrics, but it’s not the first attempt to measure attention on the Internet. Our work adds to what several forward-thinking publishers and third-party platforms have already put forward. Publishers like Say Media have been using their Total Engaged Time metric as a key signal driver for quality on publications like xoJane, Remodelista, Bio.com, and Readwrite. Medium has championed measuring and optimizing for engagement and has recently started experimenting with incentivizing its editors based on total time spent reading. The folks at Chartbeat have also been talking about the “Attention Web" for some time now and are onboard with Attention Minutes:

    "Upworthy are among the first publishers really committing to understanding and monetizing attention — and adapting their business to do so. They know the future of the web needs to be about more than driving traffic to a story. It has to be about placing a premium on stories that capture and hold people’s attention, and we’re excited to have them as partners in this mission," said Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat, which is measuring and monetizing attention in real time for editorial and advertising teams with its engaged time metrics.

    We know it can be a little difficult to get your head around any new metric. So we put together the following GIFs that help explain a few hidden things that Attention Minutes help reveal about both content and distribution.

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    Here’s a quick payoff to measuring Attention Minutes: We know that you’ll probably be into these two videos because, even in a crop of other videos that people loved, these two were significantly more likely to grab and take hold of viewer’s attention.

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    The old paradigm of pageviews is giving way to cleaner signals for attention. Our conversations with clients — from brands to advertisers — all point toward a hunger for real engagement measurements that capture whether users are actually tuning in to content. And we’re not the only ones seeing this appetite. Just this week Financial Times announced it will be selling ads based on the time its audience spends with the content. After all, what’s the use of a big-budget advertising campaign if you can’t even tell whether people are noticing?

    This development is a good thing. The more we’re measuring for engagement and satisfaction instead of being distracted by pageview-juking slideshows, zombie tabs, and the like, the more we can create real, sustainable incentives to make quality content.

    So, feel free to use our code as a starting point. Or, if you don’t have the wherewithal to build, Chartbeat (and soon Parse.ly) have off-the-shelf products you can use today. In any case, the excuses for using old-school, limited measurements are rapidly disappearing. And, frankly, we think the Internet will be all the better for it.


  6. Posted:

    The Most We’ve Ever Said About Curation At Upworthy

    Here at Upworthy, we’ve spent the past two years building a culture around content curation. What is curation, you ask? It’s the process of sifting through the glut of content from across the web to find compelling, unsurfaced gems with societal importance and delivering them to folks in a way that breaks through the sea of same. As more and more content gets created on the web and audiences have less and less time to consume it, we think of ourselves as amplifiers, a service that finds worthy things deserving of a bigger audience and uses everything but the kitchen sink to connect the two.

    We’ve spent the beginning of 2014 really investing in curation — more than doubling our curatorial staff by hiring 10 new full-timers and four contributors from a pool of over 2,000 applicants. The result is a diverse incoming crew that will allow us to go deeper with our core community around the topics they care about most and connect to a broader audience with expanded topic coverage.

    image                                                              Our full-time curatorial staff at our May 2014 retreat.

    So what makes a great curator?

    The best curators can find and recognize important things that resonate in a bone-deep way. That’s not always easy. The Internet is filled with painstakingly researched white papers on important civic issues. It’s also filled with satire, inspiring narratives, thought-provoking analysis, and the things that really engage us at a gut level. The mission for Upworthy has always been to find the middle of that Venn diagram — where the civically important meets the impactful. We do this because we think that in a world where busy people are faced with a daily blizzard of content, it’s the best way for the important stuff to find an audience and stick with them. It takes a discerning eye and a keen sense of quality to see through the blizzard. Coffee helps, too.

    One fundamental quality we recruit for is lived experience. We believe that lived experience + intellectual experience = better curation. We hire people who have a strong grasp of the big-picture systemic issues facing our world, not just in their heads but also in their lives. We look for veterans and single mothers and biologists — people who might not reflect the rest of the media industry but who better reflect the people we’d like to reach. And we really seek a diversity of life experiences — we think the benefit is a broader representation of different ages, genders, ethnicities, geographies, sexual orientations, and points of view than is traditionally represented in the media.

    We’ve also been intentional about hiring for geographic diversity. It’s really important to us to make sure our curatorial team actually embodies the broad audience they’re speaking to. That’s why we’ve got curators in not just Brooklyn, NYC, but Brooklyn, Mich., and 17 other cities spanning the coasts and everywhere in between. (Fun fact: We just hired our first curator in Canada, where 10% of our audience lives.) This leads to a balanced frame of reference as a starting point for curation — a staff of relatable folks who can collaborate and challenge one another to make sure they’re always speaking from a broad, inclusive perspective. As a virtual and distributed organization, we are uniquely situated to embrace geographic diversity as a strength, and we do so zealously.

    What makes curation so different?

    Collaboration and challenging assumptions are an indispensable part of our editorial culture. Some of this happens on the human-to-human level. Does this talk about something structural rather than purely personal? Does this connect in an engaging, resonant way? Does this use emotion/humor/satire/analysis in service of connecting the viewer to a larger point — or is it manipulative? Is this really, truly important? These are questions that are both common among our curatorial staff and unlikely to be replaced by a fancy algorithm anytime soon.

    This is the starting point: editorial judgment and passion for the topic. But this is only half of the puzzle. The true secret sauce is something we call the Iron Man Principle.

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    The idea is to balance creativity and editorial judgment with technology and data that test assumptions and guide decision-making — one part human, one part machine. (Dig it?) When you layer in data on how audiences are actually responding, it can help you answer a different set of questions. Does the presentation of the content break through and grab attention? Does the content appeal to a broad audience or just the people who’ve pretended to read Foucault? Is there a catalyst or urgency for readers to share the content? It’s one thing to presume you know what will make people engage with a story you really care about and quite another to see it tested against your next-best guesses. It’s a profoundly humbling experience and one that pushes our curators to listen closely to what our community actually connects with —and what they don’t.

    The key to the Iron Man Principle is to create a culture that uses data in a balanced, heuristic way — not to override human intuition (as data often does), but to guide and challenge it. We want curators to negotiate the data signal with their own editorial judgment and the review of their peers. This is how you really supercharge impact.

    Is this curation thing really all that hard?

    Some folks seem to think our curators come in and go through a headlines boot camp (“MORE CURIOSITY GAP,” “NOT ENOUGH ‘YOU WON’T BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENS…’”). In truth, curators go through an intensive three-month on-boarding where they are introduced to the Upworthy editorial culture and ethos, a finely tuned process for finding and framing content, and a tool set for tapping into audience feedback. We stress divergent thinking and challenge new curators to look at our site and imagine wildly different realities for it.

    But with great data comes great responsibility. We’re arming our curators with a window into our audience — a real-time feed of what they’re clicking, consuming and sharing. The best curators know that’s it not all about them… it’s about understanding who’s on the other end of the message and what gets them out of bed in the morning. We want our curators to internalize the feedback, take it to heart, and continually strive to stay attuned to what’s resonating. This develops into a powerful instinct over time.

    Here’s some data from the past 24 months that really illustrates how curators evolve in a culture of listening. The triangles represent our curators’ success at each month of tenure. You can see an initial uptick from the on-boarding process and a slow, steady increase over time as the audience feedback loop strengthens their instincts to discern great content that will connect with our audience.

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    Each triangle represents an Upworthy curator at a specific tenure. The Y-axis is virality of their published content versus the average content on our site. (And average virality has improved over time, so the bar is continually getting raised on curators.) You’ll see a huge jump from zero to one month, 25% improvement within six months, and a nearly 75% increase within two years.

    At the end of the day, our mission is to bring massive amounts of attention to the topics that matter most in society. As you can see, we believe that building and maintaining a creative, data-empowered editorial team whose perspectives, backgrounds, and locations actually represent the audience we’re trying to reach is a huge part of that mission. As always, it’s a work in progress. But we’re already seeing our curator investments pay off in June (check out this viral post from our new curator Franchesca), and we’re excited to see them truly develop through the rest of 2014.


  7. Posted:

    Our Mission Is Huge. Here’s How We’re Building The Business To Support It.

    We started Upworthy with a clear mission: to bring massive amounts of attention to the most important topics in the world. We never thought that would be easy. The sheer volume of Internet chatter around personality quizzes, LOLcats, sideboobs, and the like still vastly outnumbers conversations around income inequality, public health, and climate change (for now). But, with your help, we think we’ve been able to make a sizable dent for important issues: More than 50 million people engage with Upworthy every month, spending more than 5 million minutes daily watching, reading, and sharing.

    To really accomplish our mission, though, we’ll need to operate at a much more significant scale. That’s why we started Upworthy as a business. But building a revenue strategy isn’t something you rush into, and we like iterative learning — so we began to test and learn.

    Over the last year, we’ve worked with some amazing folks like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who helped fund our section All 7 Billion, where we’ve gone deep on really important issues like global health and poverty. We’ve also collaborated on pilots with brands like Dove and Skype that have created compelling videos giving voice to important messages — messages you proved were important by reading and sharing as much as any of our other posts. It’s still early, but the signs are good. And we think there’s an amazing opportunity to work with both brands and nonprofits in a symbiotic way — underwriting our work to draw attention to the most important topics.

    Today, building on those pilots, we’re introducing a new advertising program called Upworthy Collaborations. Here’s where we’ve landed and why we’re excited about it.

    What is Upworthy Collaborations?
    Let’s be clear: It’s advertising. Let’s be even clearer: It’s more than that.

    Upworthy Collaborations is about finding a shared mission with brands and organizations — working together to connect the best of what they stand for with what our community cares about. Brands get an opportunity to participate in the Upworthy community, we get to go deeper on important content areas, and together we push the mission forward.

    Here’s what it looks like for advertisers:

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    On a practical level, it means you’ll see sponsored sections around topics we think are important and promoted posts that fit with the Upworthy mission. Most importantly, you’ll always know when a brand is involved — it’s very clearly marked — and you can rest assured that we’ll only work with folks we think are actually making a real effort at improving the world, not just those saying it.

    We realize there’s a lot there, so let’s unpack it.

    Upworthy won’t be a fit for every brand — and some brands won’t be a fit for Upworthy.
    We’re looking for organizations interested in drawing attention to ideas that are truly important to society — that’s always our first and most important question. And we’re happy to draw attention to great things companies are doing, but we make sure they’re really doing it and not just “greenwashing” (covering up bad behavior with superficial work to improve their image). 

    We aren’t weighing our site down with the usual hallmarks of Internet advertising.
    We want to keep the experience as clean and enjoyable for you as possible. That’s why there are no expandable banner ads, homepage takeovers, or garish advertorial content on the site. You will see tasteful sponsorships, clearly disclosed promotional content, and excellent curation around topics that both the brand and Upworthy believe in deeply.

    Our editorial content is still 100% independent.
    Advertisers have no ability or leverage to affect what we cover on the rest of the site — even when it directly touches on what they’re doing or is critical of them. 

    Our latest collaboration is with Unilever’s Project Sunlight, a long-term initiative to motivate people to live sustainably by inspiring them to create a brighter future for children. It will start with Upworthy promoting the best of existing Project Sunlight content and curating stories from across the web highlighting leaders working to make the world better and more sustainable.

    Why do we think this campaign is a fit? Drawing more attention to the stories of leaders who are working on making the world better and more environmentally sustainable is a good thing, and it touches on several of the top topics our audience voted to see more of in 2014. Kismet. Why do we think Unilever is a fit? Because they are making great strides toward a more sustainable world, and we think we can help.

    We’re committed to making these collaborations a win for everybody, and we’re confident they will be.

    • Our readers win. With brands and nonprofits behind us, we can go broader and deeper on the topics that matter to you, experiment with new types of content, lift up underreported issues, and make the Upworthy experience even more rich and engaging. These collaborations will allow us to invest and experiment with new ways to tell stories that matter.
    • Our advertising partners win. Participating in one of the most active, socially connected communities on the web comes with its advantages. It gives brands a chance to show what they believe in and care about.
    • Our mission wins. For example: Since the beginning of the year, with just a handful of curators, we have driven millions of Attention Minutes to topics surrounding hunger, income inequality, and homelessness. Collaborations will help us scale up this kind of effort so we can elevate more great stories around these topics and reach more people. Twice as much? Three times? We can’t wait to find out.

    We know there are serious concerns any time a media company decides to work with advertisers. The most important thing for us is to find a way to grow with integrity while retaining your trust. That’s why it’s so important to us to be straight up with you — our community — and let you know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. We’ll keep tweaking this model as we learn and get feedback from you, but we both believe we’ve found the right path to start on today — one that advances our mission and will hopefully help Upworthy to remain strong, independent, and sustainable for years and decades to come.

    — Peter & Eli


  8. Posted:

    The Most Important Topics Of 2014, According To You

    We tend to hear an awful lot about how little regard you have for important, substantive issues. To hear the cynics tell it, you split your time on the Internet exclusively playing Candy Crush and taking celebrity quizzes. But we have a hunch that you care about more than that. Last month, we asked you what you felt were the most important topics: the big issues of our day that deserve more focus and attention than they generally receive in the media.

    And boy, did we hear from you. In the couple of days the poll was open, tens of thousands of you from all across the country and world chimed in to vote. Many of you even gave us personal and moving reasons for your choices. So without further ado, here are the top three vote-getters from the poll. We’d tell you why we think these issues are really important, but we actually think you’ve said it best:

    #1 Climate Change and Clean Energy

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    #2 Income Inequality and Poverty

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     #3 Human Rights

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    We don’t think it’s quite enough to promise to bring more attention to these topics: We’re also proud to announce we’re teaming up with some experts in these fields to get the coverage just right. The good folks at Human Rights Watch, ProPublica, and Climate Nexus have stepped up to help us deliver great posts on these topics.

    Human Rights Watch is one of the biggest and most effective research and advocacy organizations in the world. Their focus on a broad range of human rights issues — from child soldiers to freedom of the press — is exemplary, and we’re very excited to amplify their incredible work.

    ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning nonprofit investigative news organization that produces hard-hitting and exhaustively researched pieces on everything from fracking to poverty wages and substandard working conditions in the temp economy. We’re thrilled at the opportunity to work with them to shine an even brighter light on underreported issues.

    To help bone up on climate change and clean energy issues, we’ll be partnering with the good folks at Climate Nexus. Chock-full of environmental science experts, reporters, public affairs specialists, and documentary filmmakers, Climate Nexus already does excellent work in telling the story of our climate in new and clever ways. We’re excited about putting our heads together to think of even bigger and bolder ways to bring attention to one of the most pressing issues facing our planet.

    And we hope to announce more partnerships in the weeks to come, so stay tuned.

    Too many media companies assume the worst about their communities — they think just because they’ve seen starlet scandals get more site traffic than foreign revolutions, that’s what their audience really wants to see. We couldn’t disagree more, and we think that the millions of you who make up the Upworthy community help prove it every day.

    — The Upworthy Team


  9. Posted:

    Why We Fact-Check Every Post On Upworthy

    Hi, I’m Upworthy’s Copy Chief. I come from the journalism world, with years of experience on the copy desks of major newspapers. It’s my job to make sure you can trust everything we post to the site.

    Some of the things we curate at Upworthy seem almost too crazy or shocking or good to be true — citizens in Colorado taking on a huge energy company and actually winning? Humans killing more than 11,000 sharks per hour? A 17-year-old recording racial profiling with his iPod? And we all know that the web is littered with bogus stories, unchecked “facts,” and half-truths that are spun and taken out of context.

    That’s why, while we count on our curators to get their material right, we have an independent group of fact-checkers holding them accountable. My team scrutinizes everything that goes up on the site before we post it — a rarity at a time when even print magazines are laying off fact-checkers. All facts asserted in our content have to be backed up by reliable sources such as major trustworthy media outlets, government agencies and reports, scientific experts, and authoritative nongovernmental organizations.

    We’re curators, not journalists — we don’t do investigative reporting, we don’t report breaking news. But we absolutely believe in editorial ethics.

    Of course, we’re human, which means we screw up sometimes. When we make mistakes, we don’t hide from them — we correct them, and then we tell you on social media that we screwed up so you have all the facts. I’m happy to say that this is exceedingly rare: We’ve had only one major correction and a handful of smaller ones — out of thousands of posts. We feel pretty good about that track record.

    The bottom line here: We take the trust our community places in us very seriously. Credibility is perhaps the most important trait of great curation. So don’t worry about spreading bad info. If it says “Upworthy,” you can share it with confidence, knowing that it checks out.

    — Matt Savener, Upworthy Copy Chief


  10. Posted:

    Dear Upworthy Community, Which Important Topics Should We Lift Up Together In 2014?

    Upworthy started as a long-odds bet on people — that hundreds of millions of us actually care about the pressing, substantive issues that affect our world.

    Together, we’re winning that bet. In 2013, 286 million unique visitors checked out the stories we shared on really challenging topics like health policy, racial discrimination, and domestic violence. The Upworthy community is now spending about 5 million attention minutes per day on important topics. (To put that in context: Think of a minute. Now imagine 5 million of those!) And no, not a single one of those minutes has been spent on a quiz to figure out which Spice Girl you are.

    Now, in 2014, we want to go deeper — deeper into the big issues that have already attracted huge amounts of engagement, and deeper into new issues that are just as important but haven’t yet proven to be as shareable.

    Today we’re doubling down on our bet. We’re wagering that Upworthy’s community is more eager to engage with meaningful issues than the cynics might suggest. As a first step toward deepening our editorial mission, we’re asking our community to tell us what they think are the most important topics. (We’ll still post on a wide variety of issues, but we’ll make sure to give our community’s picks the extra tender, loving, care they deserve.)

    So: What important topics should Upworthy go deeper into this year? Let us know what you think right now, and we’ll share what we hear from you in the weeks ahead. We’re all ears.

    —Team Upworthy

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  11. Posted:

    3 Interesting Things Attention Minutes Have Already Taught Us

    Our new Attention Minutes metric doesn’t just allow us to make sure we’re providing an excellent content experience for the Upworthy community — it also lets us compare notes with other organizations that are committed to real engagement over mere pageviews, like Chartbeat, YouTube, and Medium.

    So we thought it’d be fun to examine some findings they’ve published to see if we’re finding the same things. Of the three things we looked into, we found one clear point of agreement (with a twist), one area of partial agreement, and one major difference.

    Finding #1: Referrer matters — and so does device.
    First, we looked at a Chartbeat finding that the average amount of attention per visit depends heavily on where the visitor came from. For our comparison, we looked at the data for a 10-minute French film about sexual violence we posted last week.

    image

    Like Chartbeat, we found that visitors who came to the video from another page on our site paid the most attention (nearly 5 minutes) while direct traffic and Facebook visitors paid somewhat less attention. However, unlike Chartbeat, we found that visitors arriving from Google paid more attention than those from Twitter (though both groups were quite small in this case, so it’s hard to draw meaningful conclusions).

    The interesting bit came when we took our analysis one step further, breaking Facebook visits into those from facebook.com and those from m.facebook.com (the mobile version). We found that desktop visitors from Facebook spent more than 5 minutes watching on average. That’s more attention than visitors from any other source. Mobile Facebook visitors, on the other hand, averaged 4 minutes of attention. 

    image

    Finding #2: People who stick around share more.
    Next we looked at a tweet from Chartbeat that said they found “effectively no correlation between social shares and people actually reading.” That surprised us, but a longer version of what they found might be stated as, “Just because an article is shared a lot doesn’t mean that people are reading the whole thing.” And that makes more sense. Lots of people might share a breaking news article after reading only the first paragraph, for example.

    But when we zoomed in and looked at individual behavior, rather than post-level data, a different story emerged. Reassuringly for content producers, the propensity to share is closely tied to how much attention each user pays.

    image

    As you can see, we found there’s a large group of people who do share early in the content. We can’t know their motivations, but perhaps they’ve already seen the content elsewhere? Perhaps they get the point quickly and just want to share it already? The folks who consume much, but not all, of the content are the least likely to share. But it’s those who make it to the end who are the most likely to share. 

    Finding #3: There’s no ideal length for content.
    Finally, we looked at a blog post from Medium announcing that the optimal post length is 7 minutes. They found that although posts of any length can be big hits, on average, 7-minute posts garner the most attention.

    However, we didn’t find the same thing. 

    image

    Among our posts, a piece of content as short as 37 seconds has driven millions of attention minutes, as has content that’s 20+ minutes.

    Perhaps this is because of differences between written content and visual content. Or maybe it’s due to the ways our respective audiences engage with our content. But we found no correlation at all between post length and the total amount of attention paid.

    So what have we learned from Attention Minutes so far? Whether your content is short or long, whether your audience comes from Facebook or Google, whether lots of people have seen your content before or it’s brand new, quality is what counts. 

    Publish great stuff, and people will stick with it and share it with their friends. Hardly a revolutionary idea, but it’s good to confirm it with data.

    – Daniel Mintz, Director of Business Intelligence


  12. Posted:

    What Uniques And Pageviews Leave Out (And Why We’re Measuring Attention Minutes Instead)

    We’re big believers that you are what you measure. Our mission here at Upworthy is to draw massive amounts of attention to the most important topics. So, how do you measure that?

    We dabbled with pageviews, but that’s a flimsy metric, as anyone who’s suffered through an online slideshow knows (20 pageviews! Zero user satisfaction!). Pageviews are only a great metric if you’re being paid for each pageview; we don’t run banner ads, so they’ve never meant as much to us.

    Unique visitors are fine but reward breadth over depth of user experience. Shares per piece of content are quite a valuable signal, but they don’t get you all the way there. And time on site, as Google measures it, works great for e-commerce but is often confusingly broken for media companies. Google Analytics at one point had us at 21 minutes on site per visit on average; we’re good, but we know we’re not that good.

    So we decided we needed a new approach. If we’re trying to maximize attention for meaningful content, let’s actually solve for that.

    Introducing attention minutes, Upworthy’s new primary metric, which we’re planning to track in two forms:

    • Total Attention on Site (per hour, day, week, month, whatever) — that tells us (like total uniques or total pageviews) how good of a job Upworthy is doing overall at drawing attention to important topics.
    • And Total Attention per Piece, which is a combination of how many people watch something on Upworthy and how much of it they actually watch. Pieces with higher Total Attention should be promoted more.

    We love thinking this way because it rewards us for sharing content that people really enjoy and find valuable — not just stuff they click on a lot. It may mean that we don’t do quite as well on uniques or pageviews, but that’s a trade-off we’re happy to make because this is a metric focused on real audience satisfaction.

    How does it work? Attention minutes is a fine-grained, conservative measure of how long people are engaging with the content on our pages. YouTubeChartbeat, and Medium are all moving in a similar direction: They’ve all recognized the advantages of measuring whether visitors are actually engaged with their content and have rolled out similar measures in recent months.

    Our implementation is far more precise than “Time on Page” as it’s usually measured. Time on Page generally relies on a very sparse set of signals to figure out whether viewers are still paying attention. And especially on the last page of a visit, it can be hugely misleading. (Here’s a handy explainer about why that is. Incidentally, our Average Time on Page was 5:24 in December and January according to Google Analytics. But we just don’t think that metric is terribly reliable or useful for our purposes.)

    We built attention minutes to look at a wide range of signals — everything from video player signals about whether a video is currently playing, to a user’s mouse movements, to which browser tab is currently open — to determine whether the user is still engaged. The result is a fine-grained and unforgiving metric that tells us whether people are really engaged with our content or whether they’ve moved on to the next thing.

    In the charts below, we show what attention data for three popular posts looks like from the last couple of months. As you can see, attention follows very different patterns for different posts. The first one looks great if you only look at pageviews. (1 million pageviews! Woohoo!) But when you look more closely, it’s not driving much attention per pageview. The second post had far fewer pageviews but more total attention minutes. And the last post had about the same pageviews as the first but vastly more total attention minutes.

    chart

    Being able to make charts like this helps us get past the focus on pageviews to see what’s really grabbing our visitors. They allow us to focus not just on how many people landed on a page but how many people watched a substantial portion. That’s how we define our biggest successes.

    Last quarter, the Upworthy community spent more than 7 million attention minutes on our site per day. That’s more than 13 years of attention, every day. We’re pretty proud of that. But we’ve got a long way to go. (For reference, American adults watch 79,000 years of television per day.)

    chart

    We also think this is how social networks will want to think about the content being shared on their sites — not just in terms of clicks or shares but in terms of what’s grabbing users’ attention. A comprehensive approach that looks at clicks + watchability (attention minutes) + shares + engagement (comments and Likes) can give a strong signal about which content users find highly satisfying and rewarding, and which content they’re bored by.

    In the coming months, we’ll be making the details of our implementation, including the source code, public; we’re excited to have other media companies engage with this metric. We think adding attention minutes to the arsenal of metrics that publishers look at will accelerate the drive toward quality. The media landscape is constantly changing, and how we judge success needs to evolve constantly, too. We think attention minutes is a step in a better direction.


  13. Posted:

    You Helped Get A Girls’ Toy Company All The Way To The Super Bowl. Wanna See What They Did?

    Once upon a time, Debbie Sterling, a woman fresh out of engineering school, noticed a problem: Men outnumbered women in engineering 10 to 1. From a young age, girls are exposed to dolls, lots of pink frilly things, and kitchen toys (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but rarely to toys that help them improve their cognitive skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Boys, on the other hand, are marketed toys like Legos and models. Debbie knew girls are just as capable in these fields — now if they were just offered the right opportunities…

    So Debbie made a prototype of an engineering toy for girls — but she needed money to get it off the ground. When we found GoldieBlox, they had just launched their first Kickstarter. They had met their goals, but one of our curators decided to see if he could make it even bigger. So we wrote up their amazing launch video, and you all got them 2 million more views and over $100,000 more in funding. Because, as we already know, you are awesome.

    A year later, after hitting the shelves of Toys R Us, becoming the #1-selling board game on Amazon, and helping a bunch of young girls realize their science, technology, engineering, and math talents, the amazing folks at GoldieBlox made another ad for the Intuit Small Business Big Game contest. We wrote it up, and you guys shared it all over the Interwebs. Over 12 million views came from the Upworthy community. What’s more, you voted in droves for their chance to have a commercial in the Super Bowl. And now, thanks to their talent and 200,000 of your votes, over 100 million people were introduced to GoldieBlox during the big game. Which means they are about to get a whole lot bigger. Which means an investment in girl engineers 10 years down the road. Which means we love you guys. And that real change is actually possible.


  14. Posted:

    The Most Upworthy Topics of 2013

    With the new year upon us, we thought it would be a good time to look back at what grabbed your hearts and minds in 2013.

    Overall, the thing that excites us the most about this data (other than the pleasing colors) is that it demonstrates there’s a truly enormous audience for content about important social topics — from global health to economic inequality to domestic violence.

    And if you shared or subscribed or just visited last year: THANK YOU. You demonstrated just how intense the interest is in meaningful media, and we’re incredibly grateful.

    But let’s go to the chart. Each circle represents a topic covered by one of our top 100 pieces this year; the bigger the circle, the more traffic that topic got. The colors tell you which of nine broad categories each topic belonged to as well as which topics were shared by the most viewers.

    Most Upworthy of 2013

    Want to explore the data yourself? Please do! Click above for an interactive visualization. (And hey, if you have interesting reactions to this or ideas for future visualizations, please share them with us at @Upworthy or on Facebook.)

    Here are some cool things we saw:

    Our mission here is to draw massive amounts of attention to the most important topics, and we’ve still got plenty of work to do to achieve that mission on a societal scale. But thanks to all of you, we’re on our way.

    Thanks again, and here’s to a great 2014.


  15. Posted:

    What Actually Makes Things Go Viral Will Blow Your Mind. (Hint: It’s Not Headlines Like This.)

    By now it’s fairly well known that we care a lot about headlines here at Upworthy. We write at least 25 of them for each post. We test them rigorously. Sometimes, we even make up a word to catch your eye.

    Why? Because for us, headlines are an important means to an even more important end: drawing massive amounts of attention to topics that really matter, like health care costs and marriage equality and global health.

    And good news: It’s working. Last month, 87 million people visited Upworthy for videos about racial profiling, gender bias, reproductive rights, and other issues. We’re constantly amazed and inspired by our community’s desire for really meaningful content.

    But coming up with catchy, curiosity-inducing headlines wasn’t the reason Upworthy had those 87 million visitors. It was because millions of members of the Upworthy community watched the videos we curated and found them important, compelling, and worth sharing with their friends.

    Upworthy posts don’t go viral because people click — Upworthy posts go viral because people share.

    "Clickbait" — overselling content with outrageous headlines in order to get people onto a website — is a totally viable (if totally annoying) way to get a bunch of initial views. But it doesn’t create viral content. By far the most important factor in getting people to share a post is the actual quality of the content in the eyes of the community. To share, they have to love what they see.

    And that’s the reason we focus on quality over quantity. We gauge quality on three things:

    1. Is the content substantive, engaging, and maybe even entertaining?
    2. If 1 million people saw it, would the world be a better place?
    3. Does the content actually deliver on the promise of the headline?

    Our top curators comb through hundreds of videos and graphics a week, looking for the 5-7 that they’re confident are super-shareable. That’s not a typo: We pay people full-time to curate 5-7 things a week. What are they doing with all that time? Partly, crafting headlines. Mostly? Finding really great stuff people will want to share with everyone they know.

    And things are going pretty well in this department, too. NewsWhip, an independent company that analyzes social sharing, recently took a look at shares, Likes, comments, tweets, LinkedIns (whatever those are called), and pins for the top 50 media websites. Here are some of the biggest publishers, ranked by how many social interactions their average post gets:

    So, yes, headlines matter. But content doesn’t go viral unless people love it so much they want to share it.

    (If this post felt valuable to you, feel free, of course, to share it with everyone you know.)