On a mission

The Onion, a satirical newspaper, web site and TV channel, has made its reputation writing stories that typically start with an aburdly funny headline. So I guess it's not surprising that an Onion veteran, Peter Koechley, is one of the founders of the headline-driven, fact-based web site, Upworthy.

In the New York Times, David Carr described Upworthy as "a news aggregation site that began publishing on March 26, [offering] serious news built for a spreadable age, with super clicky headlines and a visually oriented user interface." Traffic has already grown to 2.5 million unique visitors in June, barely three months after its launch.

The founders also include Eli Pariser, the former executive director of MoveOn.org who wrote "The Filter Bubble", an account of how cookie-based user tracking creates information verticals on the web. Upworthy seems crafted to break through those verticals.

While Upworthy creates, finds and encourages its audience to share high-quality content, it isn't "fair and balanced." Carr captured Pariser characterizing Upworthy's audience as "people who believe global warming exists and gay people should be able to get married."

There's no question that online audiences like to share, and to the extent that Upworthy substitutes Venn diagrams for LOLCats, we're at least marginally better off. In an election year, though, Upworthy's near-term success might be a bubble of its own more than a harbinger of factoids to come.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.