Media startup Upworthy wants to go in the way of Netflix, says Editorial Director Amy O'Leary.
That is: to move from only aggregating (or streaming) others' stories, and start experimenting with original storytelling, as the wildly successful Netflix has done with the likes of "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black."
O'Leary outlined her vision for the company in a slide deck published on Wednesday. Although Upworthy first staked its reputation on curating the news, she explains how it now plans to produce more original content , including longform storytelling and videos. The announcement comes on the heels of the launch of its new web series, produced in partnership with MSNBC, and which targets specifically "millennial" viewers.
"I worked at a newspaper [The New York Times] for a long time," O'Leary tells Inc. by phone. "And the thing that really frustrated me was that the most important stories would die on the vine. Something is off in our society when we spend more time worrying about the color of a dress as opposed to climate change."
To that end, Upworthy will leverage data to influence its storytelling. Unlike competitors such as Vocativ, however--which also uses an "Open Mind" software to track clicks across the deep web--O'Leary says that Upworthy's staff will be looking at more "quality signals" in traffic, such as how long a user spends on a story, or how and where they choose to share it. She also adds that it uses the "Little Mermaid" approach to social media, i.e., it wants to be "where the people are" online (as opposed to competing against those platforms.) That may mean, for instance, editing a video slightly differently for Facebook, as opposed to how it's made for YouTube.
This shift could also be read as an effort to boost Upworthy's dwindling readership. Once among the fastest-growing media companies, Upworthy's traffic has dipped significantly since its record-high of 50 million unique visitors in August of 2014. It now clocks roughly 20 million monthly readers, according to recent data from Quantcast.
Even so, O'Leary says, "we're really comfortable with where we're at right now,"