One thing that has become clear this year is that we, the millennials, like our news in special millennial-friendly packaging.
Or as the co-founder of millennial news site Mic told me one recent afternoon: “How would you explain the Russian financial crisis to your college roommate? That’s how we expect writers to write.”
My college roommate was an anarchist poet, so I’m not sure how she’d like her financial news delivered, but I do understand the notion.
At the Mic offices in downtown Manhattan, editor in chief Jake Horowitz and CEO Chris Altchek (both founders) sat down to explain their mission. Mic targets college-educated millennials by delivering serious news told in a digestible, shareable, high-brow kind of way, similar to websites like Ozy or the evolving Fusion. But Mic is especially focused around a set of earnest ideals — the prevailing belief is that millennials get shortchanged by low-brow media, and that we would be more interested in the news if it were told to us in a colloquial, fun and sassy sort of way. The site launched three years ago, has 19 million unique visitors a month, 46 full-time employees and a fleet of freelancers.
Recent headlines include: “Celebrating the Murder of NYPD Cops Completely Misses the Point of #BlackLivesMatter,” “Minimum Wage Workers in 20 States Will Get a Raise in 2015 — But It’s Still Not Enough,” and “We Asked Men to Draw Vaginas to Prove an Important Point.”
Do I need my news pre-chewed and hashtagged for cool kidz? I tend to think not, but I also keep seeing Mic in my Facebook feed, and keep clicking, so they’re onto something.
“Our peers and our generation are really interested in talking about what’s happening in the world, talking about substantive things at a huge velocity,” Altchek said. “Most media companies are struggling to do online content, and are addressing young people as silly and desiring snackable content over anything else. So we set out to see if we could do a media company treating young people like they’re smart.”
Altchek and Horowitz met at Horace Mann, a private college prep school in the Bronx, where they both played the saxophone. They went to Harvard and Stanford, respectively. Altchek, loquacious, with an athletic build and self-identifying as the conservative one of the duo, worked for the Bush White House and then joined Goldman Sachs as an analyst. Horowitz, quieter, with slightly more tousled hair, had lived in Beirut and worked for crowdfunding-activism site Change.org. They reconnected in 2010 to found PolicyMic, which later became just Mic.
The day I visited their open-plan office, which is decorated with succulents and fluorescent pink chairs, they both wore button-downs. Every Friday, they have an all-office game of “two truths and a lie” for company bonding.
They argue that news needs to be tailored — in both content and form — to the millennial.
“New York Times coverage doesn’t resonate with our audience at all,” Horowitz said.
“I wouldn’t say it doesn’t resonate at all, but that’s not what they’re focused on,” Altchek said.
I suggested it’s because the Gray Lady doesn’t use our cool millennial slang.
“I wouldn’t say it’s slang at all,” Altchek said, maybe not loving my joke. “Our focus is religiously on college-educated 25-year-olds. It’s all about, okay, what topics do we think it’s really important for our generation to think about and talk about … and what topics is our generation going to talk about over drinks, dinner, coffee …”
On our Tinder dates, I added, trying to shake them up a bit.
“Yeah … Tinder,” Altchek said.
In terms of content for the midterm elections, this meant writing about candidates under 35, he said.
“They all ended up losing [the election], but for us, it’s who we’re going to be profiling,” Altchek said.
“They didn’t actually end up all losing,” Horowitz added. “I think the point is, as we think about big major topics that are really important, it’s what would be the conversations you and I would be having?”
He suggested that those conversations would be around topics such as marijuana, minimum wage and whether young people can still make a difference in Washington.
They said that the millennials aren’t the only ones with their own special media.
“Cable news came on in the ’80s, and has held onto that generation,” Altchek said. “Fox’s median viewer is in their 70s.”
One of their friends identifies her mom as a millennial because she uses Twitter for news, and the Mic.com founders suggested that maybe they can become cross-generational and be the news site of “the millennium.” Like, of our era.
Or you can have a separate Mic.com for old people, I suggested.
“We’ll see,” Altchek said, looking at Horowitz.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.