Everyone Wants to Know Who's Behind ViralNova. You Won't Believe the Answer.

Business Insider
Analyzing the top news stories across the web
Dec. 2 2013 12:41 PM

Everyone Wants to Know Who's Behind ViralNova. You Won't Believe the Answer.



This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

You clicked the headline above to get here. Would you click on these stories?


Likely. You might even share them via Facebook or Twitter with friends that will share them as well.

They're from ViralNova, an obscure website that launched in May with a headline format that suddenly has journalists and bloggers everywhere trying to crack its code. Why? Because the headlines work. They hit an emotional, empathetic, and yes, curious note with readers, and in this click-hungry industry, the new kid on the block is making waves.

But here's the catch: no one is absolutely sure who the new kid is.

Alex Litel at The Wire did a deep dive into ViralNova's creation:

There are no good traffic statistics. The site is not tracked by comScore and its "About" page is intentionally vague — but according to Alexa, in May it was the 443,652nd most popular website in the world and now it's ranked 1,685th.

Litel mentions that ViralNova's "About Page" scoffs at the media folks who have tried to uncover the identities of the people behind it. There's an FAQ section with snippy answers ("Where are you located?" "The Internet." "Who's your audience?" "People.") and it also states they aren't running paid ads on their site. Consider big sites like BuzzFeed, Gawker, and Business Insider that are funded and feature sponsored content in order to employ its developers, editors and writers. ("How many people work at ViralNova?" "Take a guess. It’s less than that.") Whoever is behind ViralNova doesn't give interviews.

Litel discovered more:

Despite the attempts to hide their identity, we were able to connect ViralNova through its AdSense account (follow the money) to a number of other sites, including Epic VoicesPaw My GoshThat Cute Site and Must Smile. And following the trails of those sites, there [was one name] that consistently came up: Scott DeLong.

Litel reported that two other names surfaced time and time again in relation to the site. DeLong, who emailed Business Insider after this article went up, said that he was the only person involved in ViralNova out of the three names Litel reported.

The ordeal rings similar to when BuzzFeed soared to new heights with its discovery of how well the "listicle" worked. People moaned and groaned over it (and some still do), but its clicks don't lie.

BuzzFeed, now responsible for as many hard-hitting pieces as it is 90s GIFs, earned senior editor Matt Stopera a profile in Bloomberg Businessweek in 2012:

But there’s something about Stopera’s lists on BuzzFeed that calls to mind every bewildering pop-culture streak you’ve ever puzzled over. It suggests somebody has cracked a code.

Luckily, the code switches up every once in awhile, but it's interesting that those responsible for ViralNova don't want the glory of being the next craze throwing the media world off its game.

Caroline Moss is a tech reporter for Business Insider. Follow her on Twitter.


Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

Here’s Just How Far a Southern Woman May Have to Drive to Get an Abortion

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?


Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 20 2014 1:50 PM Why We Shouldn’t be Too Sure About the Supposed Deal to Return the Abducted Nigerian Schoolgirls
Oct. 20 2014 2:16 PM Even When They Go to College, The Poor Sometimes Stay Poor
Oct. 20 2014 2:19 PM A Procedural Rule Could Keep Gay Marriage From Ever Reaching SCOTUS Again
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 1:10 PM Women Are Still Losing Jobs for Getting Pregnant
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 1:26 PM This $248 Denim Jumpsuit Is the Latest Example of a Horrible Fashion Tradition
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 1:51 PM Will Amazon Lead Us to the Golden Age of Books? A Future Tense Event.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 10:23 AM Where I Was Wrong About the Royals I underestimated the value of building a team that’s just barely better than mediocre.