The Science Behind Upworthy's Miraculous Virality [Slide Deck]
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Growth Hacks!
Kyle Russell narrates what seem like a billion slides:
Among digital media startups, Upworthy is a company that seems to be run by miracle workers.
While Buzzfeed and Business Insider took years to build their readerships, Upworthy was able to amass a comparable audience numbering in the millions, in a period of a few months.
Most people associate the site's growth with headlines like "Imagine Trying To Pay Bills On Little Money. Then Imagine They Want To Take Half Of That Away." They aren't very informative, but they create a "curiosity gap" that makes you want to click.
According to Upworthy, the headlines are only a small part of their success. The rest has to do with finding "sharable" content and then finding the language that strikes an emotional chord in the greatest number of people.
They've gotten that last bit down to a science, as seen in the following slide deck. While some of the numbers are a bit out of date, the lessons within are still incredibly useful for anyone making content meant to go viral.
Basically, humans are just bags of water who exist to click on Upworthy links and share them.
Will include some favorites from the slide deck below.
Curators like Eisenberg trawl the web for “seeds”—content to feature on the site—and develop them into “nuggets.” A nugget is, for the most part, a list of 25 potential headlines, developed in a kind of high-octane one-person brainstorming session. Then comes “click testing.” Curators load potential headlines and thumbnail images into a testing system, which shows each option to a small sample of the site’s visitors, tracking their actions—did they click it, did they share it?
Then [Mordecai, a site curator] lets everyone in on his newest data discovery, which is that descriptive headlines—ones that tell you exactly what the content is—are starting to win out over Upworthy’s signature “curiosity gap” headlines, which tease you by withholding details. (“She Has a Horrifying Story to Tell. Except It Isn’t Actually True. Except It Actually Is True.”) How then, someone asks, have they been getting away with teasing headlines for so long? “Because people weren’t used to it,” says Mordecai. “Now everybody does it, and they do cartoon versions of ours.”