The previous edition of Ewha Voice covered Korean new media startups G pictures and Deepr which are engaging young readers in news. However, our survey revealed that many Korean millennials remain disinterested in current affairs. Ewha Voice’s overseas coverage has found a very different media landscape and readership on the East coast of the United States. While the high-tech Silicon Valley in San Francisco on the West coast of the States, New York hosts a Silicon Alley, which is a cluster of new media companies including Facebook, Netflix, Twitter and many more. Among these tech giants are the journalism startups Mic and Bustle. Travelling down the east coast to Arlington, Virginia, Ewha Voice also encountered Axios, another innovative new media platform delivering news to millennials in its own distinctive way.
|Stephanie Clary, Managing Editor at Mic, refers the millennials as ‘change makers’, and targets them as their main audience, taking content and making it work on social media so people can engage with it more easily. Photo by Cho In-hyo.
Perfect news fit for mobile screens: Axios
New media company Axios launched in 2017, two days before president Trump’s inauguration. It was founded by Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei, Politico’s former Chief White House Correspondent Mike Allen, and former Politico Chief Revenue Officer Roy Schwartz. Axios aims to stand at the intersection between politics, business and technology; covering how Trump uses social media, how cars start to drive themselves, as well as business and financial megatrends. The company has broken such issues down into seven areas: science, politics, energy, health care, business, technology and future of work. The last looks at the big trends on the kinds of jobs people have, touching on everything from automation to robotics. It also covers contemporary issues ranging from the Opioid Epidemic in the United States, to the rise of populism.
Axios is unique in that it produces articles in its own format, which summarizes the key points and content in a concise style, that fits well on a mobile screen. Its website has 250,000 subscribers and reaches 8 million views monthly, with numbers going up.
“Why do people love Facebook and Twitter? It’s because you can just scroll through very short pieces of information,” explained Nicholas Johnston, Editor in Chief at Axios. “We wanted to try and build a news organization with a journalistic style very similar to that. A lot of the conventions of writing articles of 800 to 1,000 words, those are 150 years old. We thought they were due for a change.”
He stated that the company’s philosophy is that there are tens of millions of smart, intelligent and curious people who are very busy but want to learn more about the world around them.
“They probably subscribe to the Economist or the New York Times,” Nicholas commented.” I subscribe to them and read them, and our point is to get our readers their contents as efficiently as possible and as smart as possible, where if you move your thumb five times on your phone, you’ll read five or six stories and you’ll get up to speed of what’s going on.”
He also explained how Axios wants to be perceived by its readers. Explaining that Axios is a Greek word that means ‘worthy’, Nicholas stated that Axios hopes its readers find the contents worthy of their time, attention and trust. “This is a very interesting moment in the US, with struggles at some media organizations,” Nicholas said. “I'm super vigilant about our reputation and making sure that we are nonpartisan and right down the middle so we’re not saying things on TV or social media that we should not be. It’s pretty much earning our readers’ trust because most of those will read, trust and devote their time to us. There’s a million places to go get your news and so many hours in the day, so we should be worthy of that trust and attention.”
“It was incredibly difficult to get people to change what they were doing,” Nicholas said. “One of the reasons why I am so excited to be here, and I like it so much is that we’re not changing a culture, we’re inventing one. There’s no other way of doing it at Axios. There’s just the Axios way because it’s been like that since we very first started. This made it much easier and exciting to start challenging old norms because as a startup, we were able to create that from scratch.”Nicholas admitted that it was not an easy decision to start at a new company but said that newsroom culture can be hard to change and journalists become very set in their ways. When at the Washington Post, his first job, the newspaper was just beginning its transition to the internet, trying to encourage journalists to write for the web.
He also denied too that young adults are disinterested in the news. "They might not look at the news like their parents do, Nicholas said.” “I spend a lot of time talking to people in universities and college in the United States and I always ask them these questions: ‘What do you read?’, ‘Where do you get your information?’ and I don’t think they are consuming less, they are consuming differently. If you look at some activism around Trump or around shooting in the US, I think younger people are checking it out.”
Korean vs U.S. millennials’ views on news
In contrast to those Ewha voice spoke to in Korea, the interviewees from all three US new media companies agreed that American young adults are active in social movements and do read the news. To assess this attitude firsthand, Ewha Voice interviewed young people on the streets of New York, near the New York Public Library. All 10 people in our mini-survey replied that they were interested in the news, whether local or global.
"I get my news from journalists that I follow on Twitter and new media like Vice Media because it’s easier to get on my phone or the internet than purchasing a newspaper," said Scott Haley, a 28-year-old from New Jersey. “I often read social and political news, especially on human rights and civil rights.”
27-year-old New Yorker Elgin Lu also agreed that young adults do have interest in news, referring to how he gets social, political and economy news from his mobile phone on his way to work for its convenience of time and space.
It seems that New Yorkers at least are more tuned in to the news compared to Korean interviewees in our 145-number person survey where almost the half of respondents said they do not voluntarily search the news, many said that the news is too boring, difficult, untrustworthy or unrelatable; the real challenge now is for Korean new media to keep capturing the minds of millennials to inform the next generation.