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Q&A: Upworthy CEO Eli Pariser on the unpredictable nature of viral

From The Washington Post:

Upworthy, a site that tries to make meaningful videos, graphics and pictures go viral, recently celebrated its first anniversary by announcing that it now has 1.2 million fans on Facebook. The project is the brain child of Eli Pariser, formerly of the political publication MoveOn, and former Onion managing editor Peter Koechley. Pariser, now Upworthy’s chief executive officer, took some time to chat about what the company has learned from its first year and what’s on the horizon. An edited version of our conversation appears below:

Let’s start with a big question. What have you learned from this first year?

I think when we started we sat down with investors and partners and looked them in the eye and said people want substantive content on the Internet-- secretly we wondered if that was really true. We were not sure if that was how it was going to turn out, you know, a lot of people said that thing about how you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

But we’ve found, yes, there’s an appetite. It doesn’t have to be all celebrities and pet tricks.

What kinds of things have you seen blow up that you weren't expecting? What trends have you noticed?

It’s always surprising to us why things take off. The post about the GoldieBlox tool kit [a building toy set for girls, created by a female engineer] was such as huge hit, when other content about when girls becoming engineers wasn’t.

In general, I would say we focus on the things that are visual, meaningful and shareable — that’s our triad and I think that’s served us well.

Read the rest at The Washington Post.