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Mic Gets a Washington Post Executive to Help It Grow, and Grow Up

Step three in the modern media handbook plays out.

Marvin Joseph / The Washington Post
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Mic is one of several fast-growing Web publishers with big, millennial-focused ambitions. Now it has hired an executive to speed the process along: Cory Haik, a top digital officer at the Washington Post, is coming aboard as Mic’s chief strategy officer.

The role is a new one at Mic, and will require Haik to work on everything from product to revenue to growth, says Mic CEO Chris Altchek.

The hope is that Haik will bring along skills she honed at the Post, which has seen its digital audience skyrocket since Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought it two years ago. She spent five years at the would-be “publication of record,” most recently in charge of “emerging news products,” which means “getting the Post onto other digital platforms.”

Haik’s skills are important to Mic, but so is her Post pedigree. Four-year-old Mic is working on replacing its reputation as a place that makes lots of content to one that makes important content, and having a Post exec on board is part of that process, both practically and optically. So was hiring Madhulika Sikka, a top editor from NPR, to become the site’s executive editor back in June.

In fact, if you were a cynic or a skeptic, you might argue that Mic is working from the modern-day media company playbook:

  • Quickly generate a big audience — 30 million visitors a month, in Mic’s case — using breezy content built for Facebook delivery.
  • Use those audience numbers to raise big rounds of funding, accompanied by talk about a unique ability to reach millennials.
  • Use some of that money to hire big name hires meant to establish Serious Media bona fides.

It’s easy to be cynical/skeptical about that approach, but if it works, it works. And sometimes it works!

Meantime Altchek is frank about the fact that Mic’s ambitions are bigger than its reality: While the site (like many others) can boast an interview with the President of the United States, and some smart reporting and videos, it also (like many others) has lots of commodity stuff quickly assembled using parts found elsewhere. Last month, when the site accidentally published a pre-written story about a Rihanna album that hadn’t yet been released, readers got a look inside the assembly line.

Altchek says he’s sorry that the Rihanna story got out, but not that it has been pre-assembled; he argues, accurately, that lots of journalism, even at the most august outlets, get pre-baked. “Most people in the industry know that if you want to write accurate stories within five minutes of news breaking, you have to prepare,” he said. But “when you see the sausage getting made halfway through, it’s half-made sausage, and it’s weird.”

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