Upworthy, The SIte That Learned How to Pander Progressively, Receives 8 Million Dollars in Funding

Monday, September 16, 2013 - 10:33 AM


Upworthy announced they've received 8 million dollars in funding this morning, which means much more Upworthy for the foreseeable future. 

When the site was first announced, Upworthy promised to be Buzzfeed, but for progressive message spreading. That seemed crazy. Buzzfeed works because it panders to your attention-span so beautifully. To truly pander, it helps to be message agnostic. You like cats? Here's 28 cat pictures. Like dogs instead? We got that too. There's no larger agenda beyond "keep clicking, please."

Pandering with purpose seems square, sad, and hopeless. 27 Jaw-Dropping Photos from Labor Rallies! 13 Benefits of Obamacare that'll Rock Your Morning! Upworthy's mission statement sounded deeply naive. 

But like Christian Rock, Upworthy's proved that you can make a lot of money by preaching to the choir. If you build like-minded people a safe place to agree with each other, they will come. (see also, San Francisco.)

What was hard to foresee is how annoying the Upworthy formula would prove to be. Buzzfeed, but with sanctimony. For instance, the splash page where Upworthy asks for your email address so that they can spam you looks like this: 

It's the exact same messaging that jerks with clipboards on the street deploy: "Hey, you'll sign this petition because you believe global warming's bad, right?" And that's mostly how the site plays throughout. A lot of content that mirrors the political email forwards you delete, packaged as heart-warming content you'll be itching to share. Politics for the very lazy. 


In retrospect, I feel a bit dumb for not realizing that there'll always be an audience that wants to be told that every political issue is simple, and that they're on the right side of it. They're the same people who keep The Newsroom on the air, and who find Lawrence O'Donnell heroic. It's just surprising that the guy who would figure out how best to cater to them would be the same guy who warned us that the internet will isolate us into silos of people who just agree with one another.


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Comments [6]

Ati from Ottawa

Thank you for writing this. I raked the internet looking for some critical info on Upworthy because they have an agenda. You spelled it right - to cater to the herd mentality of superficial people.
And thanks for reminding us all that we do like to read what we already believe, even the best of us forget to be critical at times.

Dec. 08 2014 11:21 AM
Sammy Stone from Denver

Finally, some truth: "Upworthy is annoying, its founders admit," according to a website called The Dandy Goat.

Feb. 19 2014 11:28 AM

look up "Upworthy Generator" for some lol-worthy fake Upworthy-titles.

Feb. 07 2014 11:30 AM
Bill from Gult's Gulch

Thank you. I have seen in the last two weeks posts by Upworthy on Facebook about how "bad" it is to idealize thin women. Dozens. It's getting more radical feminist-progressive. And the comments are mostly femi-nazis of late. I've decided to "unlike" the site.

Jan. 01 2014 12:44 AM

ugh so true! But what's even more disturbing to me is how many of my friends share the cheesy upworthy links. I thought they were more discerning?

Nov. 15 2013 03:09 AM
amy zamarripa from Austin

Great! Congrats!!!

Sep. 16 2013 12:33 PM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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