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.
While the high-tech Silicon Valley is in San Francisco, on the West coast of the US, on the east coast in New York, there lies a Silicon Alley, which is a new cluster of new tech companies such as Facebook, Tumblr, Netflix, and many more. Among them are Mic and Bustle. Down the east coast in Arlington, Virginia, which also Ewha Voice flew to, was Axios. All three deliver news in a distinct way to millennials through their respective innovative platforms.
News for active ‘change makers’: Mic
Mic Media, founded in 2011 by Chris Altchek and Jake Horowitz, is labeled an ‘active platform social media’ that targets a young and socially active audience via social media covering news, entertainment, social justice and many other. Mic set the 40 million elite millennial generation that received college education acknowledging the void of content for young people in a way that wasn’t pandering. Stephanie Clary, managing editor of Mic told Ewha Voice that Mic often calls its young audiences ‘change makers’ and reaches 65 million view a month for a content.
“We’re very platform driven and we find our audience on social media mostly through video, written and other visual stories. To capture them, we pride ourselves as being really good at taking our content and making it work on social media so people can engage with it more easily,” she said.
Mic measures its analytics by looking at overall views, what content was shared, how and where it was shared and on what platforms. It also looks at how much time is spent viewing, and which items are watched in full. Watching which stories people respond to guides Mic’s journalists, who are also deeply embedded in communities that they cover, on how to adapt stories to different platforms. “We do a lot of analysis, we cover stories very in-depth, asking ‘did our target audience care about it’, if they did, we would go deeper and deeper and follow up on the stories. We’re really good at trying new things out whether it is the form of journalism we do or the topics we cover. Then, we find something that sticks to our audience and we would put more resources on that,” Stephanie added.
Mic also tracks its ‘impact’, said Stephanie. “Impact can be measured in different ways: Did we start a conversation? Did we lead someone to make a change? A really good example we had is an opinion video about a woman who is a grandmother who is in jail for a non-violent crime. We call her Ms. Alice, she did a video for us from prison and it kind of revealed that people are being incarcerated unjustly across the board and race can be a factor, socio economic factors also come into play. We got high profile shares on Twitter and Kim Kardashian was one of them, which led to Kim putting money behind some legal defense for Ms. Alice! We didn’t look to make money for her, we wanted to spread her story but there was real ‘impact’ to telling that story. So we judge it differently across different content types and different platforms but that is one thing that we are looking for."
When asked about Mic’s strongest point, Stephanie said: “The ability to adapt quickly. We see changes, we see new platforms and changes in stories, rearranging teams and executing things quickly. Nimbleness of a sense of urgency like sending reporters right away about the debate on the gun AR15 after Florida’s high school shooting event, we reacted quickly also finding the best form to tell that news with a sense of urgency. We try to showcase the right tone for the right story and a big difference is that our reporters are really close to their community they cover, they are embedded deeply, checking in movements every day, understanding the inner stories so they can tell it more accurately.”
In contrast to young Koreans' indifference to the news, Stephanie gave her thoughts on behalf of her audience. “The shooting shows that young people are really engaged. As journalists, we have to find our readers where they are. Not all of them read, or have Facebook video, and I have young sisters too and they get news from Snapchat and Instagram so it’s important to reach where they are and it’s kind of on us to inform people because I think young people want to know what’s going on in their world in way they can easily understand or find. But I think this moment, at least in America, shows that people do care when there is a cause or issue they believe in, and they will go after it. I think people are not indifferent but want knowledge more than ever and it’s on journalists to make sure it happens.”
News through eyes of feminists: Bustle
Bustle, which was founded in 2013 by Bryan Goldberg, CEO of Elite Daily, aims to serve women aged 18 to 35 and their interest with workers that are millennials too. Bustle reaches 17.4 million followers on Facebook and more on its website, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest; with Emma Watson once quoting her love of Bustle’s articles in an interview for Beauty and the Beast.
“Traditional newsrooms have usually not them targeted them in as comprehensive a way as we do, so that’s our goal, to fill a void,” said Emily Epstein, the executive editor of Bustle.
Along with its targeted audience, Bustle was also unique in its system of allowing writers to work remotely. They can work from anywhere in the country that offers them diverse perspectives. “There is an idea that media people all work in New York and that makes it a smaller perspective. We have reporters all around the country and world,” said Alexandra Finkel, Bustle’s Editorial Operations Director.
The basic core tenant of journalism that Emily believed is that it is her job to witness and present stories to readers in a way that allows them to decide how they want to react and if the information is important to them at all. Bustle aims to let its readers make a judgment, while ensuring that the facts presented are true.
“That’s the challenging part, because it’s politics. How do you make politics relevant to the girl waiting in line for a smoothie? Because that’s what I do -I check my phone in line and the only way I am going to spend my time is if it is a story talking about me or a story talking about my life and so it is written in the way I would speak. That’s a core tenant of Bustle that we write in a conversational way, so we don’t translate someone’s writing style to a form of the Associated Press because no one speaks like that,” Emily said.
Although Bustle is based on feminist perspectives, the company does not limit its range of contents and audience. Though targeted, it attracts diverse viewers from young girls to men in their 60s.
“The core tenet of Bustle is inclusivity, not having a bias. The reason we focus on all categories from beauty to interiors to politics is because women are multi-faceted, we can care about fashion and international coverage. We don’t have to be myopic on coverage areas because women can talk and think about anything and we certainly do not prescribe in any way that there’s only one way to do this. We focus on what people are talking about, not telling them, those are totally different things,” Emily said.
When asked if the millennials in US have a decreasing interest in news, the two gave a different perspective than our interviewees in Korea.
"People came together to protest the immigration ban from Trump and rushed to the airport to provide free legal services and family reunification services for families who were separated. People that say that this generation is indifferent don’t know this generation,” said Emily with a firm voice.
“It is not only the millennial generation but also the next generation, Generation Z, that is very active now. I think that this has never been so obvious than when it comes to the gun control issue,” added Alexandra referring to the mass anti-firearms protests such as 'March for Our Lives' held across the US and other countries last March 24 after the shooting incident in Parkland, Florida where 17 people lost their lives.
“In a matter of days, there was a march planned, a national student walk out planned, there were protest the day after the shooting event. The idea that that’s what these students did immediately, they immediately organized making specific demands. I think it is incredible those students who have been talking about guns, it never happened before and I believe it is due to how the students capture in the conversations every single day since the shooting”, she said.
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.