The past twelve months or so has seen Upworthy, a site about ‘feel good’ videos and pictures, surge in popularity. Its ‘clickbait’ headlines entice people in, and users are almost pestered to share content on their social networks.
Its success has seen a huge number of copycat sites spring up – ViralNova being probably the best known. And existing sites like Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post have taken leaves out of Upworthy’s book and emulated their headline writing style, ostensibly to boost their traffic. Evidently, it works.
Though unlike most others, Upworthy actually doesn’t carry advertising. But some content is put up by non-profits and other organisations, which use Upworthy’s traffic to drive sign-ups. ViralNova, on the other hand, is all about getting page views for advertising.
But I’m getting tired of these clickbait headlines. They’re written to make out that the video you’re about to watch is the best thing you’ll see all week, and invariably I’m disappointed. I suppose these sites are good for passing the time if you’ve not got anything better to do. But I roll my eyes every time I see one of these articles shared on Facebook or Twitter, and avoid clicking on them.
Which is why I’m pleased to see the creation of a Chrome extension called Downworthy. It turns the hyperbole of these headlines down by a few notches, to make them seem less enticing. I’ve included a couple in the screenshot. It’s been developed by Snipe, and it’s open source.
Sadly, the extension is only for Chrome right now, and not Firefox. Also, it puts a small poo icon in your toolbar.
Anil Dash wrote something very similar at about the same time as I did. You should read that too.