November 22, 2013
News aggregator Upworthy is rapidly becoming a viral hit machine for progressive online content. Its staff searches for “stuff that matters,” composes multiple related headlines to test the waters, and selects the top performers, which it then promotes via social media. The simple model is reaping impressive results, surpassing 50 million unique visitors in October. Now the company is launching a global health and poverty section backed by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“One of the reasons we started on this social merry-go-round was to get important ideas out there that people rarely talk about. So we are getting in cahoots with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and launching a global health and poverty section,” explains Upworthy’s Facebook page. “With your shares, support, and passion, hopefully we can help raise awareness around some of the most complicated moral issues facing the world today.”
“Upworthy has run paid content, like a Microsoft-sponsored video of a Ugandan man talking to his family over Skype,” reports The Atlantic. “But this is the first time that an organization like the Gates Foundation has paid to popularize a particular concept like global health and poverty. In a way, the partnership harkens back to Upworthy’s founding idea to be a bullhorn for non-profits, amplifying their research and message, and then taking a cut.”
“The health and poverty of the lower third of the world’s population is one of the least covered issues of our time,” says Upworthy co-founder and CEO Eli Pariser. “There are people who put incredible effort and creativity into making a YouTube video on malaria, and it just gets 5,000 views. We’re hoping to go out and find those things and bring them to a much wider audience.”
Upworthy suggests that its “mission-driven media company” should not be viewed as a newspaper (“we’d rather speak truth than appear unbiased”) or a political campaign (“we’re more interested in the powerless versus the powerful than in Democrats versus Republicans”).
“At best, things online are usually either awesome or meaningful, but everything on Upworthy.com has a little of both. Sensational and substantial. Entertaining and enlightening. Shocking and significant,” explains the About page. “That’s what you can expect here: no empty calories. No pageview-juking slideshows. No right-column sleaze. Just a steady stream of the most irresistibly shareable stuff you can click on without feeling bad about yourself afterwards.”
Editor’s note: Thanks to ETC staffer Phil Lelyveld for forwarding this article.