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Millions are enjoying getting distracted by viral videos and Facebook is to blame

Media startups like Upworthy are attracting tens of millions of monthly readers, mostly from Facebook referrals and the trend has spawned a handful of similar websites, which are banking on creative headlines and viral videos and photos.


Regular users of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter would likely be familiar with websites like Upworthy, Buzzfeed and ViralNova. This would mostly be from the creative headlines, click-worthy photos and curious topics that are shared and re-shared on social networks until the message gets viral.

Business Insider outlines how a startup called Upworthy has garnered 50 million monthly unique reads only a year and a half after its launch on March 2012. Most of the content on these media startups is not even text-heavy. Additionally, content is mostly sourced from third parties, like Flickr or YouTube.

The most prominent content would either include viral videos, photos or memes. Interestingly, common among these websites is the use of catchy headlines, with titles that entice the reader’s curiosity. Take for instance the headline on the photos above: The Only Thing More Unbelievable Than These Photos Is How They Were Taken. Wow. In SEO circles, headlines like these would often be considered bordering on click-bait, but Facebook users seem to be genuinely attracted to the content, especially if it involves either bizarre incidents or inspiring videos (as with Upworthy)

Sites like ViralNova and Distractify are not too worried about branding nor return users, or bounce rate, which is why their business models are crafted on getting as many referrals from social networks like Facebook or Twitter. The media startups bank on either the virality or click-worthiness of the headlines. There is a concern, however, whether the trend is lasting, given how Facebook would sometimes change policies or algorithms, which might negatively impact traffic.

Some examples cited include Zynga, whose stock has plummeted after falling out of Facebook’s grace. The case is the same for Fab, Path, Viddy and BranchOut, which had to change their business models after Facebook stopped promoting their products and links. Another notable example is referral traffic from LinkedIn, which dropped drastically when the professional network started with its own in-house editorial team.

For now, viral videos, memes and catchy headlines will continue attracting traffic from Facebook. But with dozens of copycat websites coming up, one might wonder if the trend will soon end in a bubble, and which ones will actually have staying power.

Source: Business Insider

J. Angelo Racoma
J. Angelo Racoma has written extensively about mobile, social media, enterprise apps and startups. Angelo develops business case studies for Microsoft enterprise applications and services. He is also co-founder at WorkSmartr, a small outsourcing team.

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