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Upworthy Goes Viral by Optimizing Optimism

Forget microtargeting—Upworthy takes social media a step further
Upworthy Goes Viral by Optimizing Optimism
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Doctors gave Zach Sobiech bad news just after his 17th birthday last year: His rare bone cancer had progressed so far that he had only a year to live. In December, Sobiech posted a music video of Clouds, a song he wrote and recorded about struggling with the disease. He became the subject of a short online video documentary, which garnered tens of thousands of views after being featured on and Sobiech died on May 20.

Then the editors at viral-media site Upworthy saw the documentary. They repackaged it with the headline “This Kid Just Died. What He Left Behind Is Wondtacular.” Since then more than 15 million people have watched the documentary on Upworthy, which aggregates and popularizes videos and other online content. Sobiech’s song went to No. 1 on Apple’s iTunes Store, and a link Upworthy put next to the video raised more than $300,000 for cancer research. “The whole Internet heard his story,” says Upworthy co-founder Peter Koechley.