August 20, 2015

Earlier this year, Upworthy announced it was hiring New York Times Deputy Editor Amy O’Leary to be its editorial director, part of a broader effort by the viral news site to produce more original work.

O’Leary, widely regarded as a digital innovator at The Times, wrote at the time that her departure stemmed from a desire to “make sure the most impactful ideas reach real people” and cited an ambition to merge traditional storytelling methods with the power of metrics for maximum results.

On Wednesday, Upworthy took another step in its mission to move past its legacy as a curator of the Web and become a hub for original content. Starting this week, the digital startup is accepting submissions from freelancers who pitch stories that are “surprising, have a visual element, and are both meaningful and shareable.”

Reached by email, O’Leary said the freelancer program is aimed at broadening Upworthy’s field of vision to include stories the outlet might not have otherwise discovered. She says the pay scale will be “competitive,” but did not provide exact figures.

“Those kinds of surprising, human stories can come from anywhere. We want to throw the doors open to outside contributors to bring new stories we couldn’t always reach on our own,” O’Leary wrote. “But also, accepting freelance contributions is an important way for us to say to the world: everyone’s stories matter.”

The freelance submissions will be run alongside content produced by Upworthy’s editorial staff, which currently comprises about 30 people, O’Leary wrote. She envisions the freelancer program as supplemental to Upworthy’s full-time staff, drawing on expertise from outsiders, those who have varied experiences or special expertise.

In addition to the freelancer program, Upworthy will also solicit contributions from selected writers to introduce the outlet’s audience to new voices, O’Leary wrote. In particular, she cited initiatives undertaken by Women in Literary Arts and Writers of Color as possible models that Upworthy might follow.

“We see freelance contributions as additive to the great work our staff is doing, not duplicative,” O’Leary wrote. “Our staff writers are highly trained in finding, framing and developing stories to be massively shareable — so they bring a highly unique skill set that will always be the core of our work.”

The freelancer program comes as Upworthy is adding to its editorial and management ranks. O’Leary says the company plans to hire additional writers throughout the year, and the company recently announced three hires to shore up its business, marketing and editorial fronts. In June, Upworthy hired ex-Daily Beast Publisher Ben Zagorski to serve as its chief revenue officer, former Guardian Senior Vice President Jennifer Lindenauer as vice president of marketing and Discovery Communications transplant Nicole Carrico to be Upworthy’s head of content collaborations.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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