The Anti-Politics Of ‘Upworthy’

Upworthy says it’s not focused on elections. Really.

The viral media site, which curates video and content with a headline style that has become a meme in its own right, describes itself as “social media with a mission.” Since it launched in March 2012, Upworthy has drawn big traffic — about 53 million visitors in February — with sharing-friendly content. And it does its news aggregation with a point of view that is decidedly progressive and left-wing.

Upworthy has hit the sweet spot of political messaging, according to some observers, by effectively couching its progressive-leaning politics without emphasizing partisanship and tapping into the wide swath of young voters Republicans and Democrats both covet. And thanks to emotionally-driven clickbait headlines, the site is also able to reach out to the universe of people who normally aren’t interested in politics. For some GOP media strategists, Upworthy has become a cause for concern.

“It has the potential to be more dangerous to the livelihood of the GOP at the presidential level than the entire editorial board of The New York Times,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “It has the potential to nudge progressive voters to the ballot box in national elections. This is one giant liberal activist social media machine.”

The content is chosen to strike a chord and go viral with the audience that Upworthy states on its site it’s aiming for: “Basically, ‘The Daily Show’ generation. People who care about what’s going on in the world but don’t want to be boring about it.”

And Upworthy can reach those who aren’t typically interested in politics — after someone clicks on one heartwarming, uplifting headline, they can easily get sucked into the site and fall into the more overtly left-wing content.

“They’re like, ‘If you’re not going to go find politics, we’re going to bring politics to you,’” O’Connell said. “That’s very smart on their part. I’m sure it’s not going to make people on the right side of the aisle all that thrilled.”

Read more from Mackenzie Weinger at Politico

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Analysis & Political Strategy