The website Upworthy dubs itself “Things That Matter, Pass ‘Em On.” But to myself and like-minded people, the site represents a lot of the worst of the Internet:
Pure, shameless clickbait. Unbridled schmaltz. Algortihm-driven headline decisions that go far beyond even the already egregious SEO trickery from the likes of the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed. But unlike those sites, Upworthy’s clickbait doesn’t reside beside the occasional piece of high-quality journalism.
Fortunately, it looks like Upworthy’s rise has ground to a halt- and this time, it doesn’t even have anything to do with Google changing their algorithm. And you’ll never believe what caused it.
Business Insider reported this week that Upworthy now notches 49 million unique visitors. A huge number that’s the envy of much of the Internet, yes- but as recently as November, the site could boast of 88 million uniques, according to Quantcast.
What changed? According to BI’s Nicholas Carlson, it was Facebook:
In December, Facebook announced a change to the algorithm it uses to determine what kinds of updates (“stories”) users see in the News Feeds. In a blog post, Facebook said it wanted to feature more “high quality” content and fewer “meme photos.”
That same month, Upworthy’s traffic dropped 25% – reaching 67 million people around the world between December 1 and December 31.
Then, in January, Upworthy traffic dipped even lower – to 48 million people.That’s a 46% traffic decline in two months.
Upworthy’s cofounder told BI that the drop is due to the comedown from an historic spike in November, which may be true, although it’s also the same explanation every website proprietor, myself included, has had for every traffic drop in the history of the Internet.
BI demonstrated that Upworthy-like sites such as Distractify and the douchebag mecca that is Elite Daily posted similar drops in those months, although Buzzfeed avoided it.
So if that’s what happened, thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, you’ve done the Internet a great service.
UPDATE: Apparently there was some additional intrigue elsewhere in that same post.