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Upworthy unleashed clickbait on the Internet, but now it wants to take it back

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Dubbed the fastest growing media site of all time, Upworthy has seen its fair share of criticism, thanks to the site’s sensationalized, clickbait headlines. For that, Upworthy cofounder Peter Koechley apologized during the Guardian’s Changing Media Summit in London, reported Business Insider.

“We sort of unleashed a monster. Sorry for that,” said Koechley. “Sorry we kind of broke the Internet last year. I’m excited going forward to say goodbye to clickbait.”

Headlines such as “This Amazing Kid Just Died, What He Left Behind Was Wondtacular,” and “His First 4 Sentences Are Interesting. The 5th Blew My Mind. And Made Me A Little Sick,” donned the website since its inception in 2012, leading Facebook to change its algorithm to weed out misleading articles. The change led to the social network’s News Feed delivering more “high-quality” news stories and new comments, while punishing the types of headlines you’d normally find on Upworthy.

The algorithm change led to a huge drop in traffic for Upworthy, with the site switching to native advertising to make up for that lost revenue. Ultimately, Upworthy’s mission is to have its content evoke a wide array of emotions from readers, though its content will shift to bigger, more societal and political issues.

Up until now, readers were more accustomed to seeing pictures of cats and videos of cool stuff. With this shift, Upworthy risks losing a good part of its readership. However, Koechley doesn’t seem too worried about that.

“If you bring people into a story and really make it worth their while and leave them in a good place, they have an impulse to come back,” he said.

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