Upworthy Isn’t As Awful As You May Think [Opinion]

Skye Hudson 08-05-2014

Upworthy has got a lot of hate recently as a “clickbaity”, sensationalist website that is only out to steal content and promote itself. Is it pure evil in Internet form? Actually, it’s a wonderful addition to the World Wide Web that we should be supporting.


That’s not to say that Upworthy is perfect, but it does a lot of things right, and it deserves credit for that. Let’s argue.

Getting People To Click

This is a website that is so infamous for its clickbait that it has inspired a Chrome extension called Downworthy This Painfully Ordinary Chrome Plugin Is Probably Slightly Less Boring Than Working Sick of sites that share someone else's content and give it a linkbait headline? The Downworthy Chrome Plugin turns flagrantly linkbait headlines into something a bit more… Well, honest. Read More , but even if you don’t agree with their methods, you can’t argue that they don’t work. Upworthy gets people to click with headlines that are intriguing but just vague enough that you need to click to find out more.

Yes, it’s annoying, but it’s annoying because it prevents you from reading the headline and scrolling past it because you assume that the headline told you everything.


The World Ignored These Women’s Problem. So They Fixed It Themselves.


This headline tells you almost nothing about the Vimeo video that lies just a click away. Who are the women? What problem do they have? How did they fix it?

It’s actually about the Momentum for Change: Women for Results initiative put on by the UN Climate Change Secretariat in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation to raise awareness for the women-led groups across the world — like 1 Million Women, Food & Trees for Africa, and the BOMA Project — that are fighting climate change while ensuring economic stability.

I get it. The headline should hint to this. Maybe “Initiative By The UN Tries To Draw Attention To Women-led Sustainable Living Groups” would be a better title, but then would you click on it? It’s less likely. Upworthy’s original headline may be a clickbait, but it’s a clickbait that works, and once inside, the content is the same regardless.

Getting People To Share

However, clicks are only half the battle. Getting people to share their content is where Upworthy really shines because people feel passionately about the causes that Upworthy promotes and want to spread the word.


For example, take the video below, which was posted on Upworthy under the headline: What If You Stick A Gay Person And An Anti-Gay Straight Person In A Room And Ask Them To Hug?

Fighting homophobia is a passionate issue for many, and this video by the Gay Women’s Channel is bound to draw tears and bring hope to those individuals. It’s something they will want to share because it pulls at their emotional strings and engages them at a personal level.

Passionate about what is going on in Venezuela and think the world should know? There’s a post for that: A Haunting Email Exchange Between 2 Friends Tells You What Everyone Is Ignoring In Venezuela, which uses a video from the fantastic Minute Physics channel.

People care about these issues, and they’re going to share them. That’s important because we don’t live in a vacuum. One person watching a video that they agree with doesn’t change anything, but sharing those videos and starting discussions and challenging your friends and family and peers to think critically — that is what changes things.


Undoubtedly, Upworthy relies largely upon sharing on Facebook and other social networks to spread. Facebook has recently tweaked their algorithms to fight against this ever so slightly, but Upworthy still does everything that it takes to become popular on Facebook 9 Ways To Become More Popular On Facebook [Weekly Facebook Tips] Facebook is different things to different people. It's used to stay in touch, play games, share news and stories, or promote brands. What unites almost everyone who regularly uses Facebook is the desire to be... Read More , and it’s working for them. Their content is as shareable as ever.

Helping People Discuss Otherwise Taboo Issues

Let’s be honest; there are some things you just don’t talk about for one reason or another. They make you feel uncomfortable. They’re easier to ignore. You don’t want to question your beliefs.

But there are some taboo topics out there that need to be discussed. Take this recent Upworthy article on pedophilia: This 19-Year-Old Pedophile Has Never Gone Near A Child. And He Needs You To Hear His Story.


Pedophilia is a hard topic to talk about, but Upworthy, as a major mainstream content curator, doesn’t shy away from it. That’s impressive. Combined with their high click rates and high share rates, Upworthy really does their part in promoting the discussion of otherwise taboo topics.

What about consent?

There is Upworthy’s One Of The Most Important Parts Of Sex Is Something We Skip Over Way Too Often, which uses a video from the amazing Laci Green.

Laci Green, in addition to running one of the best sex education YouTube channels Want To Know But Afraid to Ask? 5 Sex Education YouTube Channels For teenagers, getting information about sex and sexuality can be a challenge. When you don't know who to ask, these YouTube channels can help you out. Read More out there, does a brilliant job of addressing rape culture and consent in this video — two things that people really don’t like to talk about. Yes, it’s a hard topic to discuss, but we have to discuss it if we ever want to change our culture.

Helping Content Creators Gain Recognition

Content creators wouldn’t succeed on their own; they rely on popular viral websites 7 Best Viral Video Websites To Watch What’s Buzzing Now Viral videos are accidents. I don’t think they can be created deliberately, though I am sure people try. A video going viral can launch careers and give someone their 5 minutes of YouTube fame. So,... Read More like Upworthy to spread their work. Upworthy does an incredible job of bringing Internet nobodies into the mainstream, and they always properly cite their sources directly under the video.

Take the previous video from Laci Green. Here is Upworthy’s “About” section directly below the video.

Can we get a huge round of applause for Laci Green up in here? She made the video above as well as this video about poppin’ cherries and this other video about sexual objectification, oh, and this one too about street harassment. Y’know what? She’s made a ton of great videos, so you should probably just head on over and Like her on Facebook and subscribe to her channel on YouTube so you can stay up to date on all her awesome stuff.

Upworthy isn’t trying to steal credit here; in fact, they love the content creators and want to help them grow their audience.

And consider this post that Upworthy titled: A French Film Showing Men What Being A Woman Feels Like Kinda Nails It.

I can’t imagine many people outside of France would have otherwise heard of this short film produced by Eléonore Pourriat, but Upworthy helps the film by essentially providing free publicity.


Now, I know Upworthy isn’t perfect. They have annoying pop-ups that turn your whole screen orange, as shown below, and some of their headlines are so cheesy and bereft of information that it’s infuriating, but they really do more good than harm.


Plus, they provide transcripts for every video or audio clip that they post, which is really a benefit to the user. Many people, myself included, prefer reading transcripts to watching or listening to interviews.

What do you think of Upworthy? Is it the worst thing to ever strike the Internet? Are you guilty of sharing an Upworthy post here and there? Let us know in the comments.

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  1. K M
    July 31, 2014 at 12:58 am

    Where are the transcripts?

    • Justin D
      July 31, 2014 at 7:30 pm

      they're not available for all videos, but for many they're included in an expandable box just below the video