Thursday, May 08, 2014

Why curation and context are so powerful - The Upworthy secret

I am always on the look out for great examples of storytelling. Increasingly that means content with a purpose. It is not necessarily a campaign. It can often just be a celebration of something beautiful. Like this video of East London.

It works because it mixes quadrocopter shots of Clissold Park, Regents Canal, London Fields, Victoria Park, Dalston, and Columbia Road with some impressive footage shot on the ground. It's a insight on a part of London I don't know, but would certainly like to explore now that I have been triggered. Thanks to filmmaker @HoneyWorth for inviting us on the journey - 78,000 views when I checked today. And comments on YouTube that indicate the video triggered memories for those who do know the area - as well as from people curious how the production was made.

I find myself exploring more and more content on-demand, less and less linear, to a point where I have to reset the clock on the TV on the odd-occasion that I use it. And my "radio" is an app on my iPad. It gets all the live stuff I need (usually from parts of the world where I could never hear the FM/DAB signal) and adds on-demand podcasting as well; my radio can't find the great programming that went out yesterday.

The people who influence me today are the curious curators, the people who find relevant content that helps me explain something or sparks me to go out and find that story myself.

So thanks to radio futurologist James Cridland for suggesting I watch the East London video, and that radio stations should consider making their own local celebration of why its great to live in a particular part of the world. I totally agree.

Turning Curation into a powerful business

I've noticed rather interesting suggestions appearing in my Facebook feed from a company called Upworthy. They use clever headlines to draw you in. But unlike the call to watch "awesome" cat videos which spam our lives (and make me reach for the "unlike" button immediately), the content that Upworthy suggests I watch has usually been worth my time. Like this new campaign from STC.

I note that Upworthy don't limit themselves to video - radio also creates great moments that are worth a wider audience. And they understand that great moments have a longer shelf life than we think. This edited version of an exchange between Michael D Higgins (who has since been elected as President of Ireland l) and Tea Party-fan radio host Michael Graham on the Irish radio network Newstalk 106-108 FM. It actually was recorded in 2010. But is that relevant? Not really.  (Note to Newstalk: the original recording on the radio station site is unplayable on an iPad because it requires a flash player.) 

So who are Upworthy? Crunchbase tells me there are a tiny startup based in New York, founded in 2012 by Eli Pariser and Peter Koechley. But, wait, they have raised 12 million dollars of funding. 

To do what?

To do this:

Upworthy is new social media outfit with a mission: to help people find important content that is as fun to share as a FAIL video of some idiot surfing off his roof.

Let's be honest: The Internet's been overrun with inanity, and all of us are eating it up. For example, here's a scientific study we commissioned about what comprises the online world:

At best, things online are usually either awesome or meaningful, but everything on has a little of both. Sensational and substantial. Entertaining and enlightening. Shocking and significant. That's what you can expect here: no empty calories. No pageview-juking slideshows. No right-column sleaze. Just a steady stream of the most irresistibly shareable stuff you can click on without feeling bad about yourself afterwards.

That all sounds nice, but I still don't totally get it. What type of thing are you?

We're a mission-driven media company. We're not a newspaper — we'd rather speak truth than appear unbiased. And we're not a political campaign — we're more interested in the powerless versus the powerful than in Democrats versus Republicans.

But we do have a point of view. We're pro-gay-marriage, and we're anti-child-poverty. We think the media is horrible to women, we think climate change is real, and we think the government has a lot to learn from the Internet about efficiency, disruption, and effectiveness.

And then there are dozens of issues where our curators disagree with each other — areas where there's legitimate debate to be had amongst well-meaning people. We try to encourage that debate by curating great pieces of content that represent different sides.

Who's your audience?

Basically, "The Daily Show" generation. People who care about what's going on in the world but don't want to be boring about it.

How can I help?

Oh, you're too sweet. You don't need to do anything, but since you asked, the most important thing you can do is to share content from with everyone you know as often as humanly possible.

Can I trust your content?

Yes! We fact-check all of our content — that means we verify all facts, stats, and claims through major media sources, research papers, or government agencies. Some of what you see on Upworthy may seem unbelievable, but that's why we're sharing it with you, right?

Where are the comments?

Our goal is to foster a community of people who are focused on spreading ideas within their existing groups of friends on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, and wherever else. So if you've got something burning to say about one of the videos or graphics you see on Upworthy, share it on social media and start the conversation there.

They describe themselves as targeting the "Daily Show" audience, which explains why they often curate clips from Comedy Central. Like this interview with Malala Yousafzai, probably one of the most courageous women on the planet.

I believe we need more media companies like Upworthy to find the important discussions on the Interwebs. Is it working? You bet it is.
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