Why New Organizations Are Trying on Upworthy Headlines: The Answer May Surprise You

Not cool, CNN.
In the world of social media marketing, there is something called "click bait." These are images or headlines that, because of their salacious or outrageous nature, make people click them to see where they ultimately lead. There may be some on this very page you're reading in the form of hot girl photos, for example.

This is not to say all click bait links are worthless, but the intimation is that the link makes them seem much more important or valid than they are. Much like the sensationalistic news headlines in the days of yellow journalism, click bait has the effect of over-hyping stories that rarely deserve it.

The most egregious organization when it comes to headline click baiting is Upworthy, the feel-good website full of videos and stories meant to make you feel good or angry or ready to act on...well, something.

There was a scene in the movie Scrooged where Bill Murray's character, Frank Cross, tries to explain to a room full of TV execs that a promo ad for their live show on Christmas Eve needed to be so compelling that people would be terrified NOT to watch it. This would appear to be a similar aim of Upworthy.

In a recent example, there was this headline: "A Little Girl Who Isn't Allowed to Play Outside, and the Startling Reason Why." The link led to video of an animated short film that describes what it might be like to live in the area of Japan affected by the nuclear disaster, and how nature might be dangerous.

This is not a real girl or even a real-life situation. This is an animated short, yet the headline leads us to believe we'll find out something much more terrifying and possibly angering.

These headlines have drawn plenty of attention from the Internet. There's even an Upworthy headline generator.

The problem is that, despite the ridiculous nature of these headlines, they actually work and they work extremely well. In fact, Upworthy is the fastest-growing online media company of the past year and that continues. It's not just the headlines, it's the fact that they tug at the emotions of people so much, those visitors share them on social media with friends who often share the same empathy. The end result is a massive surge of traffic, and the rest of the media world is taking notice.

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Pretty perceptive and well-explained state of the business, thanks for alerting us that we'll see more of this (and that we're continuing down the road to doom as a thinking culture, which might itself be translatable into UpWorthy clamor.)

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