Memo: It Took Three Weeks For The Washington Post’s Viral Site To Become Its Biggest Blog

The Post’s Upworthy-inspired viral site, KnowMore, is already among its most popular web properties. Once again: Do not underestimate the power of the curiosity gap.

In a memo to employees, Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth announced that writer Dylan Matthews had won the paper’s internal “Publisher’s Award” for October, citing “his tireless creativity, insight and humor in running the new blog KnowMore.”

KnowMore was launched on Oct. 7 as a viral-friendly portal to the popular Wonkblog, which is headed by Post star Ezra Klein. The site, which was conceived after the rapid ascent of left-leaning viral video site Upworthy (sample headline: This Kid Just Died. What He Left Behind Is Wondtacular.) as a way to lure more people to Wonkblog content, quickly rose to become one of the Post’s most popular properties. According to the memo, “After launching Oct. 7, KnowMore rocketed to the top echelons of Post blogs. On some days, KnowMore draws more traffic than Wonkblog.”

“For the third week of October — the third week of its existence — KnowMore was the No.1 most-read blog on all of washingtonpost.com. It is consistently in the top five,” the memo says, without revealing specific traffic figures.

There are two ways to read this: Either every publisher that doesn’t try to emulate Upworthy’s “curiosity gap” technique is leaving huge amounts of traffic on the table, or this is a temporary, exploitable quirk in the way stories are shared, related to the way Facebook works on a basic level.

Either way, read the full memo below.

Good afternoon.

The Publisher’s Award for October goes to Dylan Matthews for his tireless creativity, insight and humor in running the new blog KnowMore.

What is KnowMore? At its heart, KnowMore is Dylan Matthews.

Dylan is the writer and producer – but more than that, the sensibility — behind KnowMore, which is a blog aimed at drawing attention to the very best work offered by the Post and also by other publications. Conceived by Ezra Klein as a way to extend the Wonkblog brand further into social media, built by Yuri Victor and sustained with help from the whole Wonkblog crew, KnowMore is not trolling for cheap clicks. The idea is to grab readers’ attention and draw them into deeper reading about substantive subjects (OK, plus the occasional silly diversion).

After launching Oct. 7, KnowMore rocketed to the top echelons of Post blogs. On some days, KnowMore draws more traffic than Wonkblog. For the third week of October — the third week of its existence — KnowMore was the No.1 most-read blog on all of washingtonpost.com. It is consistently in the top five. Single KnowMore items can do enormous traffic; one on the pope drew more than a million page views in two days.

And the person at the helm day in and day out is Dylan, without whom the blog would not be off to such a stupendous start. We are proud to recognize Dylan’s unique talents — and his supercool bow ties — with this month’s Publisher’s Award.



Katherine / Marty

In conclusion: This Venerable Website Did A Weird Experiment. What Happens Next Will Make You Feel Either Really Good Or Really Bad Depending On Your Feelings About Media And The Internet.

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