Why Junk is so Popular on the Internet


Junk on Yahoo!

As an Internet marketer, I get really jealous when I see junk that goes viral on the internet. Everyday I work and strive to create things that lots of people will find useful and share, then some cat picture gets shared a million times and it makes me a bit upset.

There are also websites like Buzzfeed, ViralNova, and UpWorthy that literally just share absolutely unoriginal things. UpWorthy’s “authors” don’t even have to write more than two sentences. It’s just video embeds from YouTube and Vimeo.

All that these sites post every day is curated junk. They just collect junk that people like and it goes viral. Even mainstream news sites have caught on to some of these tactics. Some of these suffering websites might need a traffic boost for the week, so they share something kind of viral that they didn’t create. Yahoo! does this at least once a week, and there is always at least one feel good video about someone’s pet on their news slider. The Onion even wrote about this topic when CNN’s traffic was boosted for writing about the latest Miley Cyrus stunt. Not to say it is bad, but this junk isn’t useful to anyone especially on these “trusted” news sites.

But then again, it’s hard to ignore this all at the same time, especially when some of these sites’ owners are making $400,000 in one month. Buzzfeed, ViralNova, and UpWorthy have found the literal jackpot on the internet. No it isn’t easy to constantly keep up with a site like this. But the efforts they have put into this have created more value than any other websites on the internet today.


1. It’s just easy. In more ways than one.

– It is easy to consume. Readers can just hit the play button and watch a video that will make them feel good. They don’t have to read hundreds of words and paragraphs of text. Our short attention spans can focus on an easy video that makes us happy.

- It’s easy to share.

Most of the traffic for these sites is coming from Facebook. All it takes is a user who shares it, and you have instantly multiplied your reach. Except, these things are shared by thousands of people at a time every single day. The titles are optimized not for search, but for viral sharing. Some titles are only a few words apart from each other and other times they are formed only to make you interested in clicking on them. This breaks every SEO rule out there. But that is the strategy they chosen.

- It’s easy to create.

Some sites just scrape the web for good stuff. Other things you can easily find on Reddit a week before they are posted. They just find the embed button on the YouTube videos and provide an attribution link to that not-so-popular blog they got it from. Even bloggers in general struggle to find stuff to write about. If something is easy to write about, they’ll publish it just to fill the space in their blogging schedule. It is just too easy post and share to their millions of followers.

- It’s easy to promote.

UpWorthy Facebook Page

Again, simple shares are all it takes. And it only gets easier when you have more people each and every week. The rich get richer – the more Facebook followers, the more shares, likes, comments, and views. Money.

2. It grabs your attention

When you see something that one of your friends has shared, you might think about clicking on it, depending on who your friend is. But when 5 of your friends have shared the same thing, and your newsfeed is jam packed with the same video link or list of “43 things you think are funny,” you have to see what it is all about.

3. It gets a hold of your emotions

People are suckers for feel good stories, and if the titles say, “You won’t believe what___” you WILL click on it. Seriously, this works. Proof? There is 20 search results just from Upworthy for posts that say that exact thing and the first one has been shared almost 5,000 times. If it is something that will get you to hold back a tear or think it’s cute or make you laugh, it will do well on Facebook.

If there is a science behind going viral, these sites have found it. While it isn’t necessarily easy, it works, and it works well. $400,000 a month well.

If you think that this might just be a passing thing though, you might be surprised. Every day these guys rake in the bucks, the more websites trying to do the same thing will pop up. While these original sites have certainly gotten a head start, more are showing up every week. Not to mention, the useless news being passed on by major networks like CNN and Yahoo. The more that junk like this does well, the more previously established sites will want to do the same thing. They have the viewership, they just need to start sharing more junk to reap the benefits that ViralNova has shown in recent months.

Junk’s only weakness

It does make a lot of money in a short amount of time. The ROI on a content piece of junk like this is much higher, though temporary. While it depends on Facebook and other social networking sites, it doesn’t go any further than that. A piece of content only lasts for a little while, and it won’t be revisited ever again without efforts from SEO or other more diverse traffic strategies.

While you certainly might see an influx of sites like this, they will only come and go. If a site can’t keep up with the need to continue posting junk, they will easily be replaced by others. They can grow quickly, but can go just as quickly as they came. Who knows? Maybe Facebook will change something in their newsfeed algorithm that will totally disrupt the way these sites operate.

Right now, there certainly is a market for this type of website. But they will get replaced, and fizzle out. However, that  doesn’t mean that there still won’t be other sites still posting junk.

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