A new breed of “hyper-social” sites have emerged over the past two years and risen to dominate much of the popular Internet and social networks. But how did these sites grow so quickly, challenging existing traditional and mainstream media incumbents? The websites I am referring to are BuzzFeed, Upworthy and the more recent addition Viral Nova. I’m sure you have seen them all in your Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter or Google+ stream before and their success in regards to traffic and popularity is undeniable.
Here’s a global traffic comparison chart from Quantcast showing their incredibly fast uptake:
A New Breed Of Hyper Social Sites
BuzzFeed has grown into a now profitable digital media entity behind founder and CEO Jonah Peretti, with some 300+ employees doing serious reporting alongside sharing popular memes and crowd-sourced “viral” content (kittens always work). The website now accrues 85 million unique visitors per month (August 2013), growing steadily.
“By this time next year we should be one of the biggest sites on the web.” – Jonah Peretti
Upworthy was founded a little over a year ago by Eli Pariser and Peter Koechley, employs about 45 people and has since raised $12M in venture capital. Apart from “a steady stream of the most irresistibly shareable stuff” their mission is to share “stuff that matters”:
“At best, things online are usually either awesome or meaningful, but everything on Upworthy.com has a little of both. Sensational and substantial. Entertaining and enlightening. Shocking and significant.”
I wasn’t really aware of Viral Nova but they surely are eager to catch up (founded about 6 months ago):
I couldn’t find out much about Viral Nova’s “history” or founding team but the formula for all the sites is very similar and well known in viral marketing theory evoking basic physiological responses like laughter, anger, crying or shock and therefore sharing content that:
• is funny, makes you laugh
• is shocking or sensational
• is mysterious (eg. “most beautiful abandoned places“)
• is quirky or off (eg. “what does the fox say“)
• makes you feel better
• is practical or useful (eg. “life hacks“)
• is heartwarming or inspirational
• schadenfreude (eg. “fail videos“)
• is sexy
• is something to aspire to
• or makes you angry
In general, videos that evoke positive emotions (exhilaration, hilarity, astonishment, happiness, inspiration) are more likely to be shared than those that evoke negative emotions (anger, disgust, sadness, shock, frustration). Many articles on the above mentioned sites create a combination of these “viral codes” (eg. funny + sexy + schadenfreude) or putting them into easy to digest “list formats”. And it goes even further by cutting off preview images or writing very attention grabbing, provocative, cryptic or just sensational headlines all in the order to make you click, maximizing their traffic.
With this in mind these sites optimize their content for the social age with very obvious ways to re-share the content, pop-ups and slide-ins – the entire experience is catered to the purpose of increasing virality, popularity and traffic.
How often do you land on Buzzfeed or Upworthy a week? Do you know who is behind Viral Nova?
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