In 2013, Upworthy became a household name. Seemingly out of nowhere, our Facebook and Twitter Feeds were colonized with headlines like:
Dedicated to sharing left-wing viral content, the strategy Upworthy incorporates to spread its content involves creating vague, tantalizing headlines with an emotional pull to encourage you to click and hopefully share said content. This strategy has been wildly successful. In November of 2013, Upworthy’s web site had 87 million visitors. This strategy isn’t new or unique to Upworthy, but Upworthy does seem to have upped the proverbial ante in the creation of clickbait headlines.
Generally when anything is successful, there will be some kind of backlash, and the Upworthy backlash has manifested itself as an app called, appropriately, Downworthy. Downworthy was created by programmer Alison Gianotto. According to Downworthy’s web site, “Downworthy replaces hyperbolic headlines from bombastic viral websites with a slightly more realistic version.” Or, they take headlines that many consider annoying and make a joke out of them.
For example, a headline reading “I Had No Idea This Winter Phenomenon Even Happened. And Now I Can’t Stop Looking At It. Wow.” Becomes “I Had No Idea This Winter Phenomenon Even Happened. And Now I Can’t Stop Looking At It … Oh GOD This is SO Boring. Please Kill Me.”
It’s possible that Downworthy represents a turning point in the history of clickbait headlines. As web users become more savvy and sophisticated, they expect their content, and the headlines for said content, to become more sophisticated as well. Content creators and curators who utilize clickbait tactics comparable to those used by Upworthy may want to keep a wary eye on Downworthy. Is the app a blip on the internet radar? Or does it represent the edge of a wave that will crash down and radically alter the landscape of digital content marketing?