Cory Haik is the new chief strategy officer at Mic, a fast-growing media startup based in New York City. Prior to this position, she worked with the digital teams at publications including The Seattle Times and The Washington Post.
Today, she's responsible for driving and growing online viewership, while overseeing the website's editorial, analytics and product teams. Things are looking well for Mic since it's founding in 2011. It currently boasts 30 million monthly visitors, and some 150 million monthly video views. In the last year alone, Mic has roughly doubled the size of its newsroom to 87 people, and is now expanding its coverage beyond policy, politics and activism.
What accounts for the startup's success thus far? Mic's co-founder, Chris Altchek, calls the newsroom a place of genuine dedication and passion: "This is a business where you have content creators editors, writers journalists who care deeply about what they're doing."
On Monday, Mic announced that it would be unveiling two new channels that cover topics in food and wealth. Food-related coverage is now available on Mic.com. It's financial coverage vertical is expected to launch sometime in July.
Haik explains that the two new topics will continue to reflect what readers have always come to Mic for: Content that exposes and encourages activism and innovation from the community.
A test article in the food section, for example, explored how residents of Tampa, Florida may soon be able to use canned goods to pay off parking tickets. In the way of wealth, expect to see articles about robo-advisers (slick automated investment managers) or other financial technology solutions.
Will Mic's new business strategy work?
By the numbers, Mic appears to be on good financial footing: To date, it has raised $32 million in venture capital funding for a reported $100 million valuation. Though the company wouldn't disclose revenues, Altchek says Mic is on track to grow by 350 percent in 2016. The company has inked a number of ad deals over the past two years, including with Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, HBO, Netflix, and Airbnb. (Prior to 2015, Mic was not generating any sales, but instead focused on growing its audience.)
Advertisers are hungry to be where the younger generation lives--which now makes his site an ideal destination for banners or programmatic slots, explains Altchek. A robust video presence is another advantage (because clients are often willing to pay more for video ad placement). The majority of Mic's revenues come from "branded content," or pieces that promote businesses, presented alongside news and opinion coverage.
The company is so confident, in fact, that it recently signed a 10-year lease for a 34,000 square foot office in New York City's World Trade Center, which also houses offices for old-guard media giants like Condé Nast'sThe New Yorker and Vogue.
"We've built a really strong foundation," Altchek says. "We've built advertiser relationships, and a team that we think is the best. We don't need to grow 100 percent year over year. We just need to keep it steady."
Steep competition in a perilous market
Still, this isn't the only Millennial-focused media company to rack up tens of millions of viewers in a short period of time. Upworthy, which at its peak boasted 90 million monthly viewers, now sees just around 22 million, according to the most recent data from Quantcast. (The startup's founding ethos was to tell the stories that readers might not necessarily "fall in love with," but which could inspire them to do something to make a difference.)
Others, by contrast, have continued to expand: Mic competes for Millennial clicks with companies like BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post, the former of which racks up some 460 million global monthly visitors, and the latter of which has video views in the billions.
Haik is confident that readership is engaged and loyal, and will only continue to grow over time. "Mic has over and over again debunked the idea that people don't care about the news," she explained.
Today, Haik continues to follow trends much as she did at the Post. Mic is now working on a series of bots, including one called "Dis or Dat" which auto-generates articles for the reader, based on a series of short questions. Another, called Trump Chat, will interact with users in the voice of the presumptive Republican nominee.
She contends that new media, as different as it may look from traditional journalism, is finding innovative ways to report the world's most pressing stories. Earlier this month, the tech team at Mic discovered through a Reddit thread that glow sticks advertised to let Bernie Sanders supporters "feel the Burn," were actually explosive and dangerous to make.
"The gifts of these devices are not fully leveraged," Haik said, swiftly and gracefully picking up her iPhone. "Putting together a team that does that kind of stuff is very much a part of what we want to do."