Mic Co-Founders Savaged by Union After Mass Layoffs: ‘New Low in Corporate Mendacity’

The co-founders of Mic.com came in for a brutal denunciation from their own union on Thursday after company chief Chris Altcheck announced mass layoffs yesterday to the site’s editorial staff.
“While many of us have experienced layoffs and …

The co-founders of Mic.com came in for a brutal denunciation from their own union on Thursday after company chief Chris Altcheck announced mass layoffs yesterday to the site’s editorial staff.

“While many of us have experienced layoffs and upheavals in the past at other media companies, this level of deception from Mic co-founders Chris Altcheck and Jake Horowitz represents a new low in corporate mendacity,” they said. “While we were mourning the loss of our newsroom, that shock and disillusionment quickly turned to anger as it soon became apparent that we were lied to, once again, by Mic management.”

The layoffs came in addition to news that the company had been sold off to Bustle chief Bryan Goldberg — who was also singled out for criticism by the union.

“We cannot image a move more cynical or perverse than terminating your entire staff, only to cede the “brand” to a new buyer who will presumably pick the scraps from the carcass of a newsroom that we all spent years building,” said the union.

With the sale to Bustle, the ultimate fate of the Mic Union remains unclear. Reps for Mic and Bustle declined to comment.

Valued at $100 million just two year ago, Mic was ultimately forced to sell for less than $5 million to Goldberg yesterday amid a cash crunch precipitated in the short term by Facebook’s decision to cancel the company’s Facebook Watch program.

Over the longterm many outside critics noted how the company had hitched its wagon too closely to social media algorithms at the expense of developing real audience. Many also asked why a company funded entirely with investor largess would spend money on lavish office space in New York City’s World Trade Center — rent for which the Real Deal reported totaled $2.5 million a year. 

“If you’re in journalism and in fancy office space, you better have a plan B. Almost a sure sign that people are making bad decisions with their investors money,” said Mother Jones Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffrey on Thursday.

Though there had been warnings signs, the fall of Mic still came as a surprise to many. Just weeks ago, Altcheck falsely insisted that there was nothing amiss at the company and berated a journalist for accurately reporting otherwise.

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Bustle Buys Mic for Less Than $5 Million

Bustle Digital Group has agreed to buy Mic, the millennial-focused digital news site, for less than $5 million, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

“We have acquired Mic and I am pleased to welcome them into the BDG family,” Bustle founder Bryan Goldberg said in a statement Thursday.

The bargain price is a fraction of the $60 million the startup raised from investors, which valued the site at hundreds of millions of dollars. Bustle plans to reinvest in Mic’s editorial staff next year, the Journal reported, citing a “person familiar with the matter.”

Also Read: Mic Announces Mass Layoffs Ahead of Possible Sale to Bustle

“There has been a lot of news about Mic today,” Goldberg said. “They have navigated some tough waters in the last year, and today was an especially difficult one.”

The announcement came just hours after Mic announced it was laying off the majority of its editorial staff ahead of the sale.

The news was first revealed by Mic CEO and co-founder Chris Altchek in a staff meeting this morning. Among those leaving included the website’s publisher, Cory Haik, who also emailed the staff this morning to announce her departure.

“It is with great sadness that I write to you this morning to resign my position as Publisher,” she wrote. “Our business models are unsettled and the macro forces at play are all going through their own states of unrest.”

Also Read: Gawker Media Sold to Bustle Founder Bryan Goldberg in Bankruptcy Auction

One of those macro forces was an overreliance on traffic from Facebook, and the social network’s decision to cancel Mic’s Facebook Watch program.

Reps for Bustle did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap, but reports yesterday suggested that any acquisition of the company would come with a significantly reduced staff.

In September, Altchek, categorically denied that anything was wrong. In a tweet, Altchek berated Columbia Journalism Review’s Matthew Ingram for suggesting it wasn’t.

Well, the news is out: Today is my last day @Mic. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished here, me over the past 2.5 years. If anyone is looking for a snarky political junkie and reporter, my personal email is cahn.emily@gmail.com. And hire my amazing colleagues, too.

— Emily C. Singer (@CahnEmily) November 29, 2018

Surprise: I no longer work at Mic! Here’s my resume. https://t.co/MZE0NfTSuu

— ????????‍avier Harding (@iamxavier) November 29, 2018

Me leaving the Mic newsroom today for the last time https://t.co/NH2UgmSp9M

— Brianna Provenzano (@bri_provenzano) November 29, 2018

After raising $60 million, growth stalled at the millennial-focused website, which suffered from many of the same problems that have plagued other media companies that were too reliant on social media traffic.

Also Read: Washington Post Media Critic Calls on Mark Zuckerberg to Step Down

This is the latest in a string of bad news for Mic. In September, longtime reporter Jack Smith IV was forced out in the wake of a #MeToo scandal just weeks ago.

“Because of the multiple, disturbing allegations made in this story against Jack Smith, we have terminated our contract with him, effective immediately,” executive news director Kerry Lauerman said in a note shared to staff in September.

The accusations against Smith were reported by Jezebel — which you can read here. 

Related stories from TheWrap:

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Bustle Digital Group has agreed to buy Mic, the millennial-focused digital news site, for less than $5 million, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

“We have acquired Mic and I am pleased to welcome them into the BDG family,” Bustle founder Bryan Goldberg said in a statement Thursday.

The bargain price is a fraction of the $60 million the startup raised from investors, which valued the site at hundreds of millions of dollars. Bustle plans to reinvest in Mic’s editorial staff next year, the Journal reported, citing a “person familiar with the matter.”

“There has been a lot of news about Mic today,” Goldberg said. “They have navigated some tough waters in the last year, and today was an especially difficult one.”

The announcement came just hours after Mic announced it was laying off the majority of its editorial staff ahead of the sale.

The news was first revealed by Mic CEO and co-founder Chris Altchek in a staff meeting this morning. Among those leaving included the website’s publisher, Cory Haik, who also emailed the staff this morning to announce her departure.

“It is with great sadness that I write to you this morning to resign my position as Publisher,” she wrote. “Our business models are unsettled and the macro forces at play are all going through their own states of unrest.”

One of those macro forces was an overreliance on traffic from Facebook, and the social network’s decision to cancel Mic’s Facebook Watch program.

Reps for Bustle did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap, but reports yesterday suggested that any acquisition of the company would come with a significantly reduced staff.

In September, Altchek, categorically denied that anything was wrong. In a tweet, Altchek berated Columbia Journalism Review’s Matthew Ingram for suggesting it wasn’t.

After raising $60 million, growth stalled at the millennial-focused website, which suffered from many of the same problems that have plagued other media companies that were too reliant on social media traffic.

This is the latest in a string of bad news for Mic. In September, longtime reporter Jack Smith IV was forced out in the wake of a #MeToo scandal just weeks ago.

“Because of the multiple, disturbing allegations made in this story against Jack Smith, we have terminated our contract with him, effective immediately,” executive news director Kerry Lauerman said in a note shared to staff in September.

The accusations against Smith were reported by Jezebel — which you can read here. 

Related stories from TheWrap:

Disney Digital Network Hit With a New Round of Layoffs

Layoffs Hit AwesomenessTV 3 Weeks After Acquisition By Viacom

New York Post Offers Condolences to Daily News After Layoffs: 'We Want to Beat the News, But Not Like This'

Bustle Digital Group Acquires Mic Following Mic’s Massive Layoff

Bustle Digital Group has acquired Mic, the struggling digital-media company that laid off most of its employees Thursday. A rep for Bustle said in an emailed statement, “I can confirm that Bustle Digital Group has acquired Mic. We have no further…

Bustle Digital Group has acquired Mic, the struggling digital-media company that laid off most of its employees Thursday. A rep for Bustle said in an emailed statement, “I can confirm that Bustle Digital Group has acquired Mic. We have no further comment.” A spokeswoman for Mic declined to comment. Bustle, whose sites include Bustle, Romper, Elite […]

Mic Announces Mass Layoffs Ahead of Possible Sale to Bustle

Mic.com announced that it would be laying off the majority of its editorial staff amid a cash crunch and talks of a possible firesale to Bustle chief Bryan Goldberg, a company rep confirmed to TheWrap on Thursday.

The news was first revealed by company CEO and co-founder Chris Altchek in a staff meeting this morning. Among those leaving included the website’s publisher, Cory Haik, who also emailed the staff this morning to announce her departure.

“It is with great sadness that I write to you this morning to resign my position as Publisher,” she wrote. “Our business models are unsettled and the macro forces at play are all going through their own states of unrest.”

Also Read: Jimmy Fallon Doing Trump Doing Elvis Is What Late-Night Needed This Week (Video)

One of those macro forces was an overreliance on traffic from Facebook, and the social network’s decision to cancel Mic’s Facebook Watch program.

Reps for Bustle did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap, but reports yesterday suggested that any acquisition of the company would come with a significantly reduced staff.

In September, Altchek, categorically denied that anything was wrong. In a tweet, Altchek berated Columbia Journalism Review’s Matthew Ingram for suggesting it wasn’t.

Also Read: Vox Media Critic Mocked for Saying Young Sean Hannity ‘Used to Be Kind of Cute’

Well, the news is out: Today is my last day @Mic. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished here, me over the past 2.5 years. If anyone is looking for a snarky political junkie and reporter, my personal email is cahn.emily@gmail.com. And hire my amazing colleagues, too.

— Emily C. Singer (@CahnEmily) November 29, 2018

Surprise: I no longer work at Mic! Here’s my resume. https://t.co/MZE0NfTSuu

— ????????‍avier Harding (@iamxavier) November 29, 2018

Me leaving the Mic newsroom today for the last time https://t.co/NH2UgmSp9M

— Brianna Provenzano (@bri_provenzano) November 29, 2018

After raising $60 million, growth stalled at the millennial focused website, which suffered from many of the same problems that have plagued other media companies that were too reliant on social media traffic.

Also Read: Washington Post Media Critic Calls on Mark Zuckerberg to Step Down

This is the latest in a string of bad news for Mic. In September, longtime reporter Jack Smith IV was forced out in the wake of a #MeToo scandal just weeks ago.

“Because of the multiple, disturbing allegations made in this story against Jack Smith, we have terminated our contract with him, effective immediately,” executive news director Kerry Lauerman said in a note shared to staff in September.

The accusations against Smith were reported by Jezebel — which you can read here. 

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Layoffs Hit AwesomenessTV 3 Weeks After Acquisition By Viacom

Mic.com announced that it would be laying off the majority of its editorial staff amid a cash crunch and talks of a possible firesale to Bustle chief Bryan Goldberg, a company rep confirmed to TheWrap on Thursday.

The news was first revealed by company CEO and co-founder Chris Altchek in a staff meeting this morning. Among those leaving included the website’s publisher, Cory Haik, who also emailed the staff this morning to announce her departure.

“It is with great sadness that I write to you this morning to resign my position as Publisher,” she wrote. “Our business models are unsettled and the macro forces at play are all going through their own states of unrest.”

One of those macro forces was an overreliance on traffic from Facebook, and the social network’s decision to cancel Mic’s Facebook Watch program.

Reps for Bustle did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap, but reports yesterday suggested that any acquisition of the company would come with a significantly reduced staff.

In September, Altchek, categorically denied that anything was wrong. In a tweet, Altchek berated Columbia Journalism Review’s Matthew Ingram for suggesting it wasn’t.

After raising $60 million, growth stalled at the millennial focused website, which suffered from many of the same problems that have plagued other media companies that were too reliant on social media traffic.

This is the latest in a string of bad news for Mic. In September, longtime reporter Jack Smith IV was forced out in the wake of a #MeToo scandal just weeks ago.

“Because of the multiple, disturbing allegations made in this story against Jack Smith, we have terminated our contract with him, effective immediately,” executive news director Kerry Lauerman said in a note shared to staff in September.

The accusations against Smith were reported by Jezebel — which you can read here. 

Related stories from TheWrap:

Disney Digital Network Hit With a New Round of Layoffs

Tiger Woods Win Scores Highest-Rated FedExCup Playoffs Telecast Ever

The Northern Trust: Behind the Scenes at Start to PGA Tour's FedEx Cup Playoffs

Layoffs Hit AwesomenessTV 3 Weeks After Acquisition By Viacom

Digital Publisher Mic Lays Off Much Of Its Staff As It Negotiates Sale — Report

Mic reportedly laid off the bulk of its staff this morning as it negotiates a sale to Bustle Digital Group, a publisher reaching millennial women.
The millennial news outlet is in talks to sell its assets to Bustle Digital group for a reported $10 mill…

Mic reportedly laid off the bulk of its staff this morning as it negotiates a sale to Bustle Digital Group, a publisher reaching millennial women. The millennial news outlet is in talks to sell its assets to Bustle Digital group for a reported $10 million, according to multiple published reports. That price, first reported by The Information, would represent a significant discount on Mic’s valuation when it raised $60 million from investors. Recode reported that Mic CEO…

Mic Fires Reporter After ‘Multiple, Disturbing Allegations’ of Misconduct

Mic.com announced on Tuesday that it had fired longtime reporter Jack Smith IV after a lengthy series of sexual misconduct accusations were published in Jezebel on Monday.

“Because of the multiple, disturbing allegations made in this story against Jack Smith, we have terminated our contract with him, effective immediately,” executive news director Kerry Lauerman said in a note shared to staff late Monday evening obtained by TheWrap.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, and we’ll have more to say in the coming days, but wanted to let the staff know of our decision tonight, given the nature,” Lauerman wrote.

Smith could not immediately be reached for comment.

Also Read: Trump Gives Shout-Out to Tomi Lahren: ‘A Truly Outstanding and Respected Young Woman!’

On Monday, Jezebel published a story by editor in chief Julianne Escobedo Shepherd detailing multiple accusations of misconduct from five different women.

“All of these women accuse Smith of behavior they variously describe as emotional abuse, manipulation, and gaslighting,” Jezebel wrote. “Three of these women say independently of one another that these tactics led to coercive sex.”

In her story, Shepherd also said that Smith had attempted to use legal threats to keep the piece from being published. “On July 12, an attorney for Smith, Rose Meade Hart, sent Jezebel a cease and desist letter with expressed intent to sue for defamation should this piece be published,” she wrote.

Also Read: NBC News Chief Andy Lack Accused of Turning Blind Eye to Sexual Misconduct Claims

The piece also reported that Mic first became aware of an investigation into Smith’s personal conduct in July and that the company responded by putting him on paid leave and launching an internal investigation — which ultimately cleared him.

A rep for Mic declined to offer further comment about its handling of Smith’s case.

Smith faced an immediate backlash on Twitter after the accusations came to light Monday, with the website union tweeting out a fulsome condemnation.

“We have been appalled by the accounts given in an article. We stand in solidarity with the victims of sexual assault and harassment,” the union said in a statement.

We are aware of the allegations against our colleague Jack Smith IV. We have been appalled by the accounts given in an article. We stand in solidarity with the victims of sexual assault and harassment. We are meeting as a union to decide on a further response. #BelieveSurvivors

— Mic Union (@mic_union) September 25, 2018

Also Read: Ronan Farrow Says Second Kavanaugh Accuser Came Forward Because ‘Senate Democrats Began Looking’

Former employees of the website also took to Twitter to condemn Smith and their former company for how they handled the investigation.

“Truly horrified to have worked for someone whose response to allegations about an employee is to put him on paid leave,” said the site’s former entertainment reporter Kevin O’Keeffe.

mic has done everything in their power to enable and protect jack smith. there were people who were laid off and fired for trivial matters, but despite multiple concerns from staff and sexual assault allegations, mic thought he was deserving of paid leave.

— sarah amy harvard (@amyharvard_) September 25, 2018

Truly horrified to have worked for someone whose response to allegations about an employee is to put him on paid leave.

— Kevin O’Keeffe (@kevinpokeeffe) September 24, 2018

Mic management: “Can’t have HR complaints if you don’t really have an HR department.” pic.twitter.com/ja2bXz9Ifq

– Ashley Alese Edwards (@AshleyAlese) September 24, 2018

The timing comes at a bad time for Mic, which has faced reporting in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere that they were hoping for an acquisition or possibly even considering closing the company. The news forced CEO and co-founder Chris Altchek to public denial the rumors.

Categorically false and irresponsible to not even ask for comment. https://t.co/x1onRnuz74

— Chris Altchek (@caltchek) September 21, 2018

In a memo circulated to employees last week obtained by TheWrap, Altchek said rumors of a proposed acquisition were true.

“Mic has received acquisition interest,” he said. “Similarly to past inbounds, we are focused on putting Mic in the best position to pursue our mission and are flattered that others recognize our value and potential.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

New York Review of Books Editor Out After Publishing #MeToo Essay

Claire Foy Says Lisbeth Salander Isn’t ‘Poster Girl’ for #MeToo – Because Abuse Has ‘Always Been There’

Sean Penn Says ‘Spirit’ of #MeToo Movement ‘Is to Divide Men and Women’ (Video)

Soon-Yi Previn Defends Woody Allen, Says Mia Farrow ‘Has Taken Advantage of the #MeToo Movement’

Mic.com announced on Tuesday that it had fired longtime reporter Jack Smith IV after a lengthy series of sexual misconduct accusations were published in Jezebel on Monday.

“Because of the multiple, disturbing allegations made in this story against Jack Smith, we have terminated our contract with him, effective immediately,” executive news director Kerry Lauerman said in a note shared to staff late Monday evening obtained by TheWrap.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, and we’ll have more to say in the coming days, but wanted to let the staff know of our decision tonight, given the nature,” Lauerman wrote.

Smith could not immediately be reached for comment.

On Monday, Jezebel published a story by editor in chief Julianne Escobedo Shepherd detailing multiple accusations of misconduct from five different women.

“All of these women accuse Smith of behavior they variously describe as emotional abuse, manipulation, and gaslighting,” Jezebel wrote. “Three of these women say independently of one another that these tactics led to coercive sex.”

In her story, Shepherd also said that Smith had attempted to use legal threats to keep the piece from being published. “On July 12, an attorney for Smith, Rose Meade Hart, sent Jezebel a cease and desist letter with expressed intent to sue for defamation should this piece be published,” she wrote.

The piece also reported that Mic first became aware of an investigation into Smith’s personal conduct in July and that the company responded by putting him on paid leave and launching an internal investigation — which ultimately cleared him.

A rep for Mic declined to offer further comment about its handling of Smith’s case.

Smith faced an immediate backlash on Twitter after the accusations came to light Monday, with the website union tweeting out a fulsome condemnation.

“We have been appalled by the accounts given in an article. We stand in solidarity with the victims of sexual assault and harassment,” the union said in a statement.

Former employees of the website also took to Twitter to condemn Smith and their former company for how they handled the investigation.

“Truly horrified to have worked for someone whose response to allegations about an employee is to put him on paid leave,” said the site’s former entertainment reporter Kevin O’Keeffe.

The timing comes at a bad time for Mic, which has faced reporting in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere that they were hoping for an acquisition or possibly even considering closing the company. The news forced CEO and co-founder Chris Altchek to public denial the rumors.

In a memo circulated to employees last week obtained by TheWrap, Altchek said rumors of a proposed acquisition were true.

“Mic has received acquisition interest,” he said. “Similarly to past inbounds, we are focused on putting Mic in the best position to pursue our mission and are flattered that others recognize our value and potential.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

New York Review of Books Editor Out After Publishing #MeToo Essay

Claire Foy Says Lisbeth Salander Isn't 'Poster Girl' for #MeToo – Because Abuse Has 'Always Been There'

Sean Penn Says 'Spirit' of #MeToo Movement 'Is to Divide Men and Women' (Video)

Soon-Yi Previn Defends Woody Allen, Says Mia Farrow 'Has Taken Advantage of the #MeToo Movement'

Snapchat Offers Select Publishers New Path to Monetization With Curated Stories

Snap Inc. is giving select publishers a new way to increase the value of their “Our Story” content on Snapchat by allowing them to aggregate public posts into the mix while monetizing the content, the company announced Thursday.

In the coming weeks, 20-plus well-known media partners — such as CNN and NowThis — will be given the ability to curate Our Stories covering areas of editorial expertise using public posts. Under the new partnerships, publishers will be able to source publicly-submitted video and photo Snaps, while adding editorial context like graphics or text to finalize an Our Story.

For example, if CNN is reporting on an event taking place on Capitol Hill, it will be able to search and use publicly available posts from Snapchatters related to the topic and then mix in its own commentary. The idea is that the user-generated content (UGC) will enhance the quality and authenticity of the posts, enticing users to stay on the platform longer and come back more often.

Also Read: Snap Sinks to Record Low on Wall Street as Snapchat Heads in ‘Wrong Direction’

“Creating authentic, compelling content for Snap’s unique audience has been core to Group Nine’s strategy from day one. We’re proud to operate Discover channels for NowThis, The Dodo and Thrillist; have numerous shows across all our brands; and to be an official breaking news partner for Snap with NowBreaking,” said Ben Lerer, CEO, Group Nine Media. “This new curation tool allows us the opportunity to lean even more heavily into what we do best — being part of the conversation and telling authentic stories that resonate deeply with young people.”

Snapchat, which monetizes its Our Stories feature through pre- and mid-roll ads, will share the ad revenue with its curation partners for the Stories they produce. The company did not give specifics on the exact split.

The new partner-curated Stories is an extension of Our Stories, which the company launched in 2015. Assembled by Snap’s in-house editorial team, the content is viewed by millions each day. According to Snap, more than 75 million people have watched Our Stories on Snapchat’s Discover in the past month alone.

Also Read: Snap Loses 3 Million Users, Posts Strong Q2 Revenue Growth as Stock Jumps 7 Percent

At launch, partners include: Brut, CNN, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, Daquan, Dodo, Harper’s Bazaar, iHeart, The Infatuation, Jukin, Lad Bible, Love Stories TV, Mic, NBC News, NBC Sports, NBC, Today Show, New York Post, NowThis, Overtime, Refinery 29, Telemundo, The Tab, Viacom, Vice, Wave.TV and Whalar.

The announcement comes after a rough week for Snap. The company’s shares dropped to a new all-time low of $9 on Wednesday, with Wall Street analysts raising concerns over a decline in daily active users (DAU) and the exit of high-ranking executives.

Part of its struggle to hold onto user engagement is the competition it’s facing from Instagram, which has a number of features similar to those of Snapchat. Launched in 2016, Instagram Stories already has 400 million DAUs, more than double the 191 million DAU visiting Snapchat Stories.

Related stories from TheWrap:

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Snap Inc. is giving select publishers a new way to increase the value of their “Our Story” content on Snapchat by allowing them to aggregate public posts into the mix while monetizing the content, the company announced Thursday.

In the coming weeks, 20-plus well-known media partners — such as CNN and NowThis — will be given the ability to curate Our Stories covering areas of editorial expertise using public posts. Under the new partnerships, publishers will be able to source publicly-submitted video and photo Snaps, while adding editorial context like graphics or text to finalize an Our Story.

For example, if CNN is reporting on an event taking place on Capitol Hill, it will be able to search and use publicly available posts from Snapchatters related to the topic and then mix in its own commentary. The idea is that the user-generated content (UGC) will enhance the quality and authenticity of the posts, enticing users to stay on the platform longer and come back more often.

“Creating authentic, compelling content for Snap’s unique audience has been core to Group Nine’s strategy from day one. We’re proud to operate Discover channels for NowThis, The Dodo and Thrillist; have numerous shows across all our brands; and to be an official breaking news partner for Snap with NowBreaking,” said Ben Lerer, CEO, Group Nine Media. “This new curation tool allows us the opportunity to lean even more heavily into what we do best — being part of the conversation and telling authentic stories that resonate deeply with young people.”

Snapchat, which monetizes its Our Stories feature through pre- and mid-roll ads, will share the ad revenue with its curation partners for the Stories they produce. The company did not give specifics on the exact split.

The new partner-curated Stories is an extension of Our Stories, which the company launched in 2015. Assembled by Snap’s in-house editorial team, the content is viewed by millions each day. According to Snap, more than 75 million people have watched Our Stories on Snapchat’s Discover in the past month alone.

At launch, partners include: Brut, CNN, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, Daquan, Dodo, Harper’s Bazaar, iHeart, The Infatuation, Jukin, Lad Bible, Love Stories TV, Mic, NBC News, NBC Sports, NBC, Today Show, New York Post, NowThis, Overtime, Refinery 29, Telemundo, The Tab, Viacom, Vice, Wave.TV and Whalar.

The announcement comes after a rough week for Snap. The company’s shares dropped to a new all-time low of $9 on Wednesday, with Wall Street analysts raising concerns over a decline in daily active users (DAU) and the exit of high-ranking executives.

Part of its struggle to hold onto user engagement is the competition it’s facing from Instagram, which has a number of features similar to those of Snapchat. Launched in 2016, Instagram Stories already has 400 million DAUs, more than double the 191 million DAU visiting Snapchat Stories.

Related stories from TheWrap:

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More Than Half of Americans Still Question Accuracy of News Content on Social Media

While over two-thirds of American adults say they at least occasionally get news on social media, 57 percent say they are concerned that the information they see is inaccurate, according to new data released Monday by The Pew Research Center.
Pew&#8217…

While over two-thirds of American adults say they at least occasionally get news on social media, 57 percent say they are concerned that the information they see is inaccurate, according to new data released Monday by The Pew Research Center.

Pew’s survey found that even among those who say they prefer to get their news from sites like Facebook and YouTube, 42 percent said that they expect the news they see to largely be inaccurate.

Republicans were more likely than Democrats and independents to be concerned about the accuracy of the news they see on social media. Among social media news consumers, about three-quarters of Republicans were concerned with inaccuracy (72 percent), compared with 46 percent of Democrats and about half of independents (52 percent).

The concern over the credibility of news distributed on social platforms comes despite efforts from Facebook and YouTube to increase trust in the news content generated on their sites.

In June, Facebook announced it would be investing an undisclosed amount of money into funding original news shows from both legacy news networks like ABC and Fox, as well as digital media companies such as Mic. YouTube was also vocal about its efforts to curb the spread of so-called “fake news.”

In July, the Google-owned company announced it would be committing $25 million to support select news organizations in building sustainable video operations on its platform. However, these efforts have not been enough to wash out the bad taste left in consumers’ mouths by the 2016 Presidential Election — a time when thousands of political ads and posts from a Russian company linked to the Kremlin flooded social media sites like Facebook.

Despite concerns of credibility, those surveyed by Pew named convenience as the most commonly named positive thing about getting news via social media: Twenty-one percent said convenience is what they liked most, with responses such as “It’s very accessible,” “It’s available at the touch of a button” and “I don’t have to go looking for it.”

In addition, 36 percent of respondents said getting their news from social media has helped them better understand current events, while nearly half (48 percent) said it doesn’t have much of an effect on their understanding. Another 15 percent said that news on social media has made them more confused about current events.

The survey found that age plays a big factor in the way people view the role of social media. Younger generations are more likely to say it has impacted their learning for the better. About half of social media news consumers ages 18 to 29 (48 percent) say news on social media makes them better informed, compared with 37 percent of those 30 to 49, 28 percent of those 50 to 64, and 27 percent of those 65 and older.

Related stories from TheWrap:

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Mic Reporter Deletes Tweet Falsely Saying Accused Russian Spy Visited Trump’s Oval Office

Emily Singer, a reporter for Mic.com, apologized on Tuesday for what she called a “serious error” in falsely tweeting that Maria Butina, a woman charged on Monday with spying on behalf of Russia in the United States, had been present with Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

“I thought this was a photoshop, but it’s not. This is Maria Butina — arrested for being a Russian spy — in the Oval Office with Trump,” Singer said in a tweet that she quickly deleted that featured a 2017 photo of Trump meeting with Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak and Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

But what would have been a bombshell revelation turned out not to be. The women Singer had in mind wasn’t Butina, but instead a National Safety Council staffer, most likely Cari Lutkins.

After The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markey and BuzzFeed’s Tom Namako weighed in that it definitely wasn’t Butina, Singer then cast doubt on her prior tweet before deleting it — and issuing a public mea culpa. Mic declined to comment.

This morning I made a serious error in tweeting about a meeting in the Oval Office in 2017. The information was incorrect, and I deleted the tweet within an hour, as soon as I realized the mistake. I apologize for any confusion.

— Emily C. Singer (@CahnEmily) July 17, 2018

Also Read: ‘Morning Joe’ Calls Trump ‘a Weak Dumpy Stooge’ After Helsinki Summit With Putin

Mediaite has a screengrab of the original tweet.

I’ve deleted the tweet. I cannot confirm that it is Butina and may be an NSC staffer. https://t.co/DIm1grRI9w

— Emily C. Singer (@CahnEmily) July 17, 2018

Even though Singer deleted the tweet, the (incorrect) news was being picked up by other outlets. Left-leaning blog DailyKos jumped all over it, reporting that not only was Butina there but that she was with her handler Alexander Torshin.

This photo is going around: That is not alleged Russian spy Maria Butina in the Oval Office With Trump. It’s an NSC staffer, a NSC source tells BuzzFeed News. pic.twitter.com/k1pDeIBZiK

— Tom Namako (@TomNamako) July 17, 2018

A fmr WH official tells me he thinks the person in this NYT photo is Cari Lutkins, the WH’s deputy director of events, who plans logistics for events like these pic.twitter.com/NZJ0z7IUqt

— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) July 17, 2018

Related stories from TheWrap:

This MSNBC Contributor Cited 9/11, Pearl Harbor and Kristallnacht to Assess Trump-Putin Summit

‘Fox & Friends’ Turns on Trump After Helsinki Press Conference: ‘He Fell Short’

Colbert ‘Shaken’ by Trump’s ‘Spineless Toadying to Putin’ (Video)

Emily Singer, a reporter for Mic.com, apologized on Tuesday for what she called a “serious error” in falsely tweeting that Maria Butina, a woman charged on Monday with spying on behalf of Russia in the United States, had been present with Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

“I thought this was a photoshop, but it’s not. This is Maria Butina — arrested for being a Russian spy — in the Oval Office with Trump,” Singer said in a tweet that she quickly deleted that featured a 2017 photo of Trump meeting with Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak and Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

But what would have been a bombshell revelation turned out not to be. The women Singer had in mind wasn’t Butina, but instead a National Safety Council staffer, most likely Cari Lutkins.

After The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markey and BuzzFeed’s Tom Namako weighed in that it definitely wasn’t Butina, Singer then cast doubt on her prior tweet before deleting it — and issuing a public mea culpa. Mic declined to comment.

Mediaite has a screengrab of the original tweet.

Even though Singer deleted the tweet, the (incorrect) news was being picked up by other outlets. Left-leaning blog DailyKos jumped all over it, reporting that not only was Butina there but that she was with her handler Alexander Torshin.

Related stories from TheWrap:

This MSNBC Contributor Cited 9/11, Pearl Harbor and Kristallnacht to Assess Trump-Putin Summit

'Fox & Friends' Turns on Trump After Helsinki Press Conference: 'He Fell Short'

Colbert 'Shaken' by Trump's 'Spineless Toadying to Putin' (Video)

Alec Baldwin Issues Video Call To Arms On The Mueller Probe

Actor Alec Baldwin has issued a political video for the Mic news site, urging supporters to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible Russian collusion in the 2016 election.
Baldwin, who frequently parodies President Donald Tru…

Actor Alec Baldwin has issued a political video for the Mic news site, urging supporters to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of possible Russian collusion in the 2016 election. Baldwin, who frequently parodies President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live, did the video for Mic, a liberal web site, which billed it as “opinion. In the video, Baldwin claims the Mueller investigation is under fire and touts activism as the cure to stop it from being…

Kim Kardashian Watched a Mic Video, Then Got Trump to Free Alice Johnson

Kim Kardashian celebrated after she successfully lobbied President Trump to offer clemency to Alice Johnson, a 62-year-old woman serving a life sentence for a non-violent drug offense. But, the origins of how Kardashian came to be Johnson’s advocate came from her seeing a viral video produced by Mic.

“I saw your video and when I see a story like hers and I go back to maybe, you know, decisions we’ve all made,” Kardashian told Jake Horowitz, the website’s co-founder. “If you think about a decision that you’ve made in your life and you get life without the possibility of parole for your first time non-violent offense, there’s just something so wrong with that.”

“This is so unfair,” she noted in a quote tweet of the original video.

Also Read: Mic Votes to Unionize, Joins the ‘Future of Digital Journalism’

This is so unfair… https://t.co/W3lPINbQuy

— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) October 26, 2017

The Mic video that documented Johnson’s struggle went viral after it first aired in October 2017, and has since generated more than 40,000 retweets. The footage has been viewed more than 4 million times.

“Johnson is one of 3,278 people serving life without parole for a nonviolent offense,” the video asserts. “Like Johnson, 79% of these people are non-violent drug offenders and 65% are black.”

The clip went on to say that Johnson’s only viable pathway to freedom lay with an act of executive clemency — something which could only come from the president. Appeals to President Obama were denied without explanation.

“We’re extremely proud of our team’s indefatigable coverage of Alice Johnson’s case, and the enormous impact it’s had,” a spokesperson for the company told TheWrap.

Also Read: What’s the Cure for Ailing Mashable, BuzzFeed and Other Online News Sites?

“So far the White House has been really receptive to my calls and I am grateful for that and I am not going to stop that because people personally don’t like Trump,” Kardashian said.

Alice Marie Johnson has been in prison for 21 years for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense. pic.twitter.com/VFe29D2ve8

— Mic (@mic) October 23, 2017

“I would explain to [Trump] that just like everybody else we can make choices in our lives that we’re not proud of and that we don’t think through all the way. You know I really do believe that she’s going to really thrive outside of prison. And I would just urge him to please pardon her.”

Kardashian took the issue all the way to the Oval Office last week, and while she failed to secure a full pardon, the communication Trump granted will allow Johnson to leave prison.

“Ms. Johnson has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades.” said the White House in an official statement explaining the decision to commute. “While this Administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Kim Kardashian’s Clemency Plea Granted by Donald Trump

Kim Kardashian Is White House Bound – Here’s Why

Taylor Swift Calls Out Kim Kardashian’s ‘Snake’ Subtweet as a ‘Bully’ Move

Kim Kardashian Slams Media Who Try to ‘Demonize’ Kanye West With Mental Issues Label

Kim Kardashian celebrated after she successfully lobbied President Trump to offer clemency to Alice Johnson, a 62-year-old woman serving a life sentence for a non-violent drug offense. But, the origins of how Kardashian came to be Johnson’s advocate came from her seeing a viral video produced by Mic.

“I saw your video and when I see a story like hers and I go back to maybe, you know, decisions we’ve all made,” Kardashian told Jake Horowitz, the website’s co-founder. “If you think about a decision that you’ve made in your life and you get life without the possibility of parole for your first time non-violent offense, there’s just something so wrong with that.”

“This is so unfair,” she noted in a quote tweet of the original video.

The Mic video that documented Johnson’s struggle went viral after it first aired in October 2017, and has since generated more than 40,000 retweets. The footage has been viewed more than 4 million times.

“Johnson is one of 3,278 people serving life without parole for a nonviolent offense,” the video asserts. “Like Johnson, 79% of these people are non-violent drug offenders and 65% are black.”

The clip went on to say that Johnson’s only viable pathway to freedom lay with an act of executive clemency — something which could only come from the president. Appeals to President Obama were denied without explanation.

“We’re extremely proud of our team’s indefatigable coverage of Alice Johnson’s case, and the enormous impact it’s had,” a spokesperson for the company told TheWrap.

“So far the White House has been really receptive to my calls and I am grateful for that and I am not going to stop that because people personally don’t like Trump,” Kardashian said.

“I would explain to [Trump] that just like everybody else we can make choices in our lives that we’re not proud of and that we don’t think through all the way. You know I really do believe that she’s going to really thrive outside of prison. And I would just urge him to please pardon her.”

Kardashian took the issue all the way to the Oval Office last week, and while she failed to secure a full pardon, the communication Trump granted will allow Johnson to leave prison.

“Ms. Johnson has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades.” said the White House in an official statement explaining the decision to commute. “While this Administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Kim Kardashian's Clemency Plea Granted by Donald Trump

Kim Kardashian Is White House Bound – Here's Why

Taylor Swift Calls Out Kim Kardashian's 'Snake' Subtweet as a 'Bully' Move

Kim Kardashian Slams Media Who Try to 'Demonize' Kanye West With Mental Issues Label

Mic Votes to Unionize, Joins the ‘Future of Digital Journalism’

The staff of news site Mic.com made a final decision to unionize on Tuesday. The move was supported by 88 percent of editorial staff at the website, according to reporter Will Drabold.

Employees of the website will now be affiliated with the NewsGuild of NY, who also represents editorial staffs of the New York Times, Reuters and the Daily Beast and Time Inc.

On Tuesday, Drabold and his colleagues presented Mic management with a copy of a letter informing them of the decision. Mic media reporter Kelsey Sutton, posted a copy the letter on Twitter Tuesday.

“So proud that Mic’s newsroom is unionizing today with @nyguild,” she said. “Unions are the future of digital journalism.”

Also Read: LA Times Votes to Form Union by 245-44 Landslide

so proud that Mic’s newsroom is unionizing today with @nyguild. Unions are the future of digital journalism ????Read our letter to Mic management here: #MicUnion #unionstrong pic.twitter.com/dW953FPu9m

— kelsey sutton ???? (@kelseymsutton) February 20, 2018

The two-page note had a list of demands including that the company institute a matching 401K program, regularly scheduled pay increases, creating clearer walls of separation between editorial and branded content and salary transparency.

Things proceeded swiftly from there. Within minutes of the announcement, employees created a Twitter handle @Mic_union and several had draped their Twitter avatars in a black logo for the newly formed body (though not former managing editor Sarah Singer)

Also Read: LA Times Editor Calls Staffer ‘Morally Bankrupt’ for Leaked Recording in Second Leaked Recording

The subject of unionization has long consumed Mic editorial, going back to at least 2015. The final decision follows similar moves by Vox Media editorial and the Los Angeles Times in January of this year.

Los Angeles Times national correspondent Matt Pearce offered his congratulations over Twitter.

Congratulations to our colleagues at Mic! https://t.co/qBKQOZlgql

— Matt Pearce ???? (@mattdpearce) February 20, 2018

“Regarding the unionizations, we’re in conversations and are keeping the best interest of our employees and the company in mind,” the company said in a brief statement to TheWrap on Tuesday.

While employees cheered, the news will likely create additional headwinds for a company that has been buffeted by internal turmoil in recent months. The website was forced to lay off dozens as part of a “pivot to video” strategy last August. The pivot by Mic — and several other companies — now seems increasingly questionable with Facebook’s recent announcement that the social media giant would pivot away from news and branded content on user newsfeeds.

Also Read: Here’s New LA Times Owner Patrick Soon-Shiong’s First Letter to Employees

Shortly after the 2017 layoffs, Mic.com was the subject of a bruising long-read in the the Outline who sourced 17 current and former staffers who painted a damning portrait.

“Mic chanced upon the social justice narrative, discovered it was Facebook gold, and mined away. Now the quarry is nearly dry,” wrote then Outline Future Editor Adrianne Jeffries. “In retrospect, it looks like Mic’s commitment to social justice was never that deep.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Slate Employees Vote to Unionize With Writers Guild of America, East

LA Times Votes to Form Union by 245-44 Landslide

Vox Media Votes to Unionize With WGA East

Actors Union: Harvey Weinstein Allegations ‘Abhorrent and Unacceptable’

The staff of news site Mic.com made a final decision to unionize on Tuesday. The move was supported by 88 percent of editorial staff at the website, according to reporter Will Drabold.

Employees of the website will now be affiliated with the NewsGuild of NY, who also represents editorial staffs of the New York Times, Reuters and the Daily Beast and Time Inc.

On Tuesday, Drabold and his colleagues presented Mic management with a copy of a letter informing them of the decision. Mic media reporter Kelsey Sutton, posted a copy the letter on Twitter Tuesday.

“So proud that Mic’s newsroom is unionizing today with @nyguild,” she said. “Unions are the future of digital journalism.”

The two-page note had a list of demands including that the company institute a matching 401K program, regularly scheduled pay increases, creating clearer walls of separation between editorial and branded content and salary transparency.

Things proceeded swiftly from there. Within minutes of the announcement, employees created a Twitter handle @Mic_union and several had draped their Twitter avatars in a black logo for the newly formed body (though not former managing editor Sarah Singer)

The subject of unionization has long consumed Mic editorial, going back to at least 2015. The final decision follows similar moves by Vox Media editorial and the Los Angeles Times in January of this year.

Los Angeles Times national correspondent Matt Pearce offered his congratulations over Twitter.

“Regarding the unionizations, we’re in conversations and are keeping the best interest of our employees and the company in mind,” the company said in a brief statement to TheWrap on Tuesday.

While employees cheered, the news will likely create additional headwinds for a company that has been buffeted by internal turmoil in recent months. The website was forced to lay off dozens as part of a “pivot to video” strategy last August. The pivot by Mic — and several other companies — now seems increasingly questionable with Facebook’s recent announcement that the social media giant would pivot away from news and branded content on user newsfeeds.

Shortly after the 2017 layoffs, Mic.com was the subject of a bruising long-read in the the Outline who sourced 17 current and former staffers who painted a damning portrait.

“Mic chanced upon the social justice narrative, discovered it was Facebook gold, and mined away. Now the quarry is nearly dry,” wrote then Outline Future Editor Adrianne Jeffries. “In retrospect, it looks like Mic’s commitment to social justice was never that deep.”

Related stories from TheWrap:

Slate Employees Vote to Unionize With Writers Guild of America, East

LA Times Votes to Form Union by 245-44 Landslide

Vox Media Votes to Unionize With WGA East

Actors Union: Harvey Weinstein Allegations 'Abhorrent and Unacceptable'

What’s the Cure for Ailing Mashable, BuzzFeed and Other Online News Sites?

The news this week that Mashable would lay off 50 employees in the wake of a fire sale to Ziff Davis for $50 million is a sign of the times in digital news.

Just two years ago the company was valued at $250 million and won $15 million in new funding from Time Warner. Now a plunging valuation has become a painfully common affair across the digital space for both small players and industry titans.

Last week, BuzzFeed axed 100 employees and delayed a planned IPO after missing expected 2017 revenues by as much as 20 percent. A traffic drop prompted Mic.com’s much-maligned “pivot to video” — and dozens of layoffs. Vice also missed earnings, but you may have overlooked that story as the company prepared for what is expected to be a brutal piece in the New York Times about the company’s issues with sexual misconduct.

Also Read: President Trump Just Lost to Barack Obama (on Twitter at Least)

“Digital media publishers are looking for scale,” said Michael J. Wolf, CEO of Active, Inc., a management consulting firm for tech and media companies. “We’re at a point now where there aren’t many of these companies. You could look at Mashable and say it’s just too small. The other reason these companies need to get larger is because they need to be move their businesses into video.”

Scale, however, is far from the only problem. As a growing number of people consume content from Google and social media, companies like Mashable find themselves in an increasingly untenable situation. As distribution algorithms are constantly tweaked, media shops are left constantly scrambling, playing the role of digital soothsayers to a hostile web.

One former Mashable senior staffer told TheWrap that social media changes took a brutal toll on traffic during his tenure and that the company constantly was left floundering with no real strategy for developing other revenue streams.

Also Read: Mashable Lays Off Staff, Top Editor in Shift to TV

A similar story played out at news website Mic.com.

“It provides an opportunity where people think there is a system to play, a game to play. You start designing stories to play into an algorithm,” said a former senior editorial employee at Mic. “Then you start picking stories based on what will do well on Facebook. People start to focus on that and not the news itself.”

To that end, the company often employed what were known internally as framings, creating formulas like “In One Tweet [Sharable Person] Just [Thing Done].” A small cottage industry of “one tweet” posts were produced to document the pronouncements of author J.K. Rowling.

Also Read: Megyn Kelly: I Was Called ‘a Real C-Word’ After Debate Dust-Up With Donald Trump

Some examples include:

“In One tweet, JK Rowling shaded all the men asking why there’s no ‘Men’s Day’”

“In One Tweet, J.K. Rowling Just Sparked the Most Magical Celebration of Equality Eve”
“One Tweet from J.K. Rowling Perfectly Shuts Down Rupert Murdoch’s Anti-Muslim Rhetoric”
“In One Tweet, JK Rowling Tells Mic We’re Wrong”

The dependence on social media has put many outlets in a bind, David Cohn, Senior Director at Advanced Publications, told TheWrap. Media sites can’t ignore Facebook; they need to leverage the social network’s massive platform to funnel readers towards its content. But the money they’re making, in comparison to the gargantuan ad sales Facebook and Google rake in, is negligible. (The duopoly accounts for 85 percent of all internet ad growth, and combined will make more than $100 billion in ad revenue in 2017, according to Mary Meeker’s annual report.)

“That generation — [sites like] NowThis, Circa — it’s a negotiation, and they’re in a weaker hand. And the reason they’re in this pickle is because they don’t have this strong hand to demand strong tools to monetize. Facebook has that upper hand, so Facebook can monetize,” said Cohn.

Also Read: When Digital Media’s ‘Pivot to Video’ Goes Wrong

He pointed to NowThis as a textbook representation of new school media’s symbiotic relationship with Facebook.

“NowThis is really just a content creator for Facebook, that’s the relationship. Facebook is the distributor and NowThis is the studio — not unlike the movie studio and the movie theater,” added Cohn. “The situation we find here is that the distributors, the Facebooks and social platforms, are in a much better position to monetize, and in a much better position to dictate, because they own the product.”

As companies scramble for answers, outlets have increasingly turned to video to maintain their weakened grasp of the audience. But the pivot to video isn’t a surefire panacea. Mark Bonner, former managing editor at International Business Times, recently told TheWrap the strategy was anything but a silver bullet for the company. By adding autoplay clips, IBT aimed to keep eyeballs on the screen longer and, in turn, boost its ad revenue. That didn’t happen.

Also Read: Ted Cruz Says He’ll Serve With Roy Moore, But Al Franken Charges Are ‘Serious Problem’

“[The pivot to video] was forced on us, and I never got an explanation why, but I can only guess they were looking at the balance sheets and saying ‘this is a fast way for us to make up some gains,’” said Bonner. “It didn’t work, as far as I can tell, because we all got laid off.”

Compounding matters, goals put in place by many of the big money venture capital firms backing these companies has undermined the drive of their editorial teams. An obsession with traffic first, quality journalism second, has stymied the industry. And the impact of VC — and its share of the blame in the media-wide downturn — isn’t lost on those that have seen it firsthand.

“So many of these companies got a lot of VC [venture capital] funding and then at companies, like a BuzzFeed and Mashable, there’s an emphasis on growth. The way to grow is to get hits and the way to get hits is to publish stories that gets hits, not necessarily stories about hard news,” said the former senior Mic employee. “That shifts things away from journalism towards traffic and when you do journalism for traffic rather than for journalism, that takes the sail out of journalists, makes it harder to stay focused, and makes it much more of a business and commodity.”

Also Read: Why Fox Buyout Could Make Disney the ‘Most Powerful Company’ in Hollywood

So what’s the path forward? Cohn sees more companies turning to a “hybrid” business model — somewhere along the spectrum between BuzzFeed’s obsession with scale, and smaller subscription-based outlets like The Information. At the same time, the million dollar question boils down to how tech and media companies find a working relationship moving forward. The hysteria over social media wiping traditional outlets off the map is overstated, but fostering a more beneficial arrangement for quality content will have to be made.

“In truth, they need each other, and when push comes to shove, these tech giants know that and understand that. You can’t surf Google if no one’s producing content, and it means nothing to share content on Facebook if there isn’t good content being made,” said Cohn. “And there’s only so many cat photos people that people can really share. There has to be substantive stuff.” 

(Disclaimer: TheWrap media editor Jon Levine was formerly a staff writer at Mic).

Related stories from TheWrap:

California Wildfire Update: ‘Westworld’ Production Back on, ‘SWAT’ Still Off as Blaze Spreads

‘Jeopardy!’ Champion Slapped With Felony Charges

When Digital Media’s ‘Pivot to Video’ Goes Wrong

Mic Lays Off 25 Employees in Pivot to Video

Break Media Pivots From Sexy Photos and Prank Videos to Sci-Fi Movie With Lorenzo di Bonaventura

The news this week that Mashable would lay off 50 employees in the wake of a fire sale to Ziff Davis for $50 million is a sign of the times in digital news.

Just two years ago the company was valued at $250 million and won $15 million in new funding from Time Warner. Now a plunging valuation has become a painfully common affair across the digital space for both small players and industry titans.

Last week, BuzzFeed axed 100 employees and delayed a planned IPO after missing expected 2017 revenues by as much as 20 percent. A traffic drop prompted Mic.com’s much-maligned “pivot to video” — and dozens of layoffs. Vice also missed earnings, but you may have overlooked that story as the company prepared for what is expected to be a brutal piece in the New York Times about the company’s issues with sexual misconduct.

“Digital media publishers are looking for scale,” said Michael J. Wolf, CEO of Active, Inc., a management consulting firm for tech and media companies. “We’re at a point now where there aren’t many of these companies. You could look at Mashable and say it’s just too small. The other reason these companies need to get larger is because they need to be move their businesses into video.”

Scale, however, is far from the only problem. As a growing number of people consume content from Google and social media, companies like Mashable find themselves in an increasingly untenable situation. As distribution algorithms are constantly tweaked, media shops are left constantly scrambling, playing the role of digital soothsayers to a hostile web.

One former Mashable senior staffer told TheWrap that social media changes took a brutal toll on traffic during his tenure and that the company constantly was left floundering with no real strategy for developing other revenue streams.

A similar story played out at news website Mic.com.

“It provides an opportunity where people think there is a system to play, a game to play. You start designing stories to play into an algorithm,” said a former senior editorial employee at Mic. “Then you start picking stories based on what will do well on Facebook. People start to focus on that and not the news itself.”

To that end, the company often employed what were known internally as framings, creating formulas like “In One Tweet [Sharable Person] Just [Thing Done].” A small cottage industry of “one tweet” posts were produced to document the pronouncements of author J.K. Rowling.

Some examples include:

“In One tweet, JK Rowling shaded all the men asking why there’s no ‘Men’s Day'”

“In One Tweet, J.K. Rowling Just Sparked the Most Magical Celebration of Equality Eve”
“One Tweet from J.K. Rowling Perfectly Shuts Down Rupert Murdoch’s Anti-Muslim Rhetoric”
“In One Tweet, JK Rowling Tells Mic We’re Wrong”

The dependence on social media has put many outlets in a bind, David Cohn, Senior Director at Advanced Publications, told TheWrap. Media sites can’t ignore Facebook; they need to leverage the social network’s massive platform to funnel readers towards its content. But the money they’re making, in comparison to the gargantuan ad sales Facebook and Google rake in, is negligible. (The duopoly accounts for 85 percent of all internet ad growth, and combined will make more than $100 billion in ad revenue in 2017, according to Mary Meeker’s annual report.)

“That generation — [sites like] NowThis, Circa — it’s a negotiation, and they’re in a weaker hand. And the reason they’re in this pickle is because they don’t have this strong hand to demand strong tools to monetize. Facebook has that upper hand, so Facebook can monetize,” said Cohn.

He pointed to NowThis as a textbook representation of new school media’s symbiotic relationship with Facebook.

“NowThis is really just a content creator for Facebook, that’s the relationship. Facebook is the distributor and NowThis is the studio — not unlike the movie studio and the movie theater,” added Cohn. “The situation we find here is that the distributors, the Facebooks and social platforms, are in a much better position to monetize, and in a much better position to dictate, because they own the product.”

As companies scramble for answers, outlets have increasingly turned to video to maintain their weakened grasp of the audience. But the pivot to video isn’t a surefire panacea. Mark Bonner, former managing editor at International Business Times, recently told TheWrap the strategy was anything but a silver bullet for the company. By adding autoplay clips, IBT aimed to keep eyeballs on the screen longer and, in turn, boost its ad revenue. That didn’t happen.

“[The pivot to video] was forced on us, and I never got an explanation why, but I can only guess they were looking at the balance sheets and saying ‘this is a fast way for us to make up some gains,'” said Bonner. “It didn’t work, as far as I can tell, because we all got laid off.”

Compounding matters, goals put in place by many of the big money venture capital firms backing these companies has undermined the drive of their editorial teams. An obsession with traffic first, quality journalism second, has stymied the industry. And the impact of VC — and its share of the blame in the media-wide downturn — isn’t lost on those that have seen it firsthand.

“So many of these companies got a lot of VC [venture capital] funding and then at companies, like a BuzzFeed and Mashable, there’s an emphasis on growth. The way to grow is to get hits and the way to get hits is to publish stories that gets hits, not necessarily stories about hard news,” said the former senior Mic employee. “That shifts things away from journalism towards traffic and when you do journalism for traffic rather than for journalism, that takes the sail out of journalists, makes it harder to stay focused, and makes it much more of a business and commodity.”

So what’s the path forward? Cohn sees more companies turning to a “hybrid” business model — somewhere along the spectrum between BuzzFeed’s obsession with scale, and smaller subscription-based outlets like The Information. At the same time, the million dollar question boils down to how tech and media companies find a working relationship moving forward. The hysteria over social media wiping traditional outlets off the map is overstated, but fostering a more beneficial arrangement for quality content will have to be made.

“In truth, they need each other, and when push comes to shove, these tech giants know that and understand that. You can’t surf Google if no one’s producing content, and it means nothing to share content on Facebook if there isn’t good content being made,” said Cohn. “And there’s only so many cat photos people that people can really share. There has to be substantive stuff.” 

(Disclaimer: TheWrap media editor Jon Levine was formerly a staff writer at Mic).

Related stories from TheWrap:

California Wildfire Update: 'Westworld' Production Back on, 'SWAT' Still Off as Blaze Spreads

'Jeopardy!' Champion Slapped With Felony Charges

When Digital Media's 'Pivot to Video' Goes Wrong

Mic Lays Off 25 Employees in Pivot to Video

Break Media Pivots From Sexy Photos and Prank Videos to Sci-Fi Movie With Lorenzo di Bonaventura

When Digital Media’s ‘Pivot to Video’ Goes Wrong

You’ve probably seen it several times already: a website announces it is “pivoting to video.” It’s an eye-roll inducing cliche that nonetheless looms over the industry like a specter.

No one wants to read anymore, the conventional wisdom goes, and so it is that as digital outlets scramble to make money in an increasingly fractured media landscape, sites fire writers and turn to their new one true savior: Video.

Fox Sports axed 20 writing positions in June to focus on video. And millennial-focused news site Mic followed suit in August, laying off 25 members of its editorial staff.

Also Read: Amazon Irked After Google Abruptly Pulls YouTube From Echo Show

It’s understandable why those sites might think video is the way forward. According to data from Pew Research Center last year, more Americans prefer to watch their news (46 percent) than read it (35 percent) or listen to it (17 percent).

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The same research also indicates a generational divide, one favoring reading over video in the long term. By a slight percentage, Americans aged 18-29 prefer to read their news; the same is true for people aged 30-49.

In other words, a blanket “video over copy” game plan is misguided — especially when targeting a younger demo.

Ask Mark Bonner, former managing editor of International Business Times. He’s seen how the bet can backfire firsthand. IBT placed a strong emphasis on video in early 2016, adding auto-play clips to all of its stories. Coupled with the site’s ad-heavy layout, the videos were a disaster, Bonner says. Rather than draw new eyeballs in, it scared readers away.

“I certainly saw it had a very adverse affect on the overall audience numbers, per day, per week, per month. That average time spent per page —  which was already very low — dipped even more,” Bonner told TheWrap. “Basically what was happening was, once they put auto-play in, and it was being married with the other programatic ads, it was like people were coming into the website and saying ‘oh man, I’ve made a mistake and I gotta go.’”

Also Read: 2 Chinese Investors Dump Stakes in Wanda’s Legendary Entertainment

The “hurried decision” rubbed both its audience and its editorial staff the wrong way, according to Bonner.

“It was offensive internally, and it was offensive externally [to the audience],” said Bonner.  “We paid for that, in terms of, the audience didn’t stay with us. And when the audience left, all hell broke loose for us.”

At the time its video strategy was implemented, IBT looked to be a well-oiled machine. The New York-based outlet had 125 writers and editors, churned out 100-15o pieces of content per day, and had 35-40 million unique visitors each month. As Bonner puts it, IBT had a “deep bench” that knew how to make the written word play online “down to a science.”

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That formula was irredeemably tweaked once video was added. When asked what the driving force was behind the decision, Bonner had one word: “Money.” Looking to leverage its audience, the business arm of IBT aimed to generate ad dollars by ramping up video views. The results were costly.

“[The pivot to video] was forced on us, and I never got an explanation why, but I can only guess they were looking at the balance sheets and saying ‘this is a fast way for us to make up some gains,’” said Bonner. “It didn’t work, as far as I can tell, because we all got laid off.”

Instead of ushering in a new era for IBT, the publication sputtered. Its editorial staff dwarfed its video team, with only three people dedicated to placing clips on stories. When readers stuck around to actually watch the videos, the content routinely failed to compliment the written story. Bonner pointed to stories on Snapchat having political clips rolling alongside them.

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The botched video rollout compounded underlying business issues for IBT. A round of layoffs came in the spring of 2016, followed by 32 more employees — including Bonner — losing their jobs early in the summer.

In hindsight, the muddled approach made it clear to Bonner pivoting to video isn’t as simple as throwing as much content against the wall as possible and hoping it sticks. An outlet has to have the internal bandwidth and talent to pull off an effective pivot.

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“Monetizing video isn’t easy,” said Bonner. “It really depends on what kind of publisher you are and the audience you have. And the rollout of that strategy has to be perfect.”

According to Similar Web, IBT’s current monthly traffic for the last three months has averaged around 21 million visitors per month. Data for the period prior to the site’s 2016 pivot is not publicly available, but current traffic numbers are about half of what Bonner tells the wrap the site used to get. TheWrap has reached out to IBT for clarification and comment.

However, data is available for Fox Sports: that site has seen its audience vanish since its pivot, with page views diving 88 percent.

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Now Editor-in-Chief of Bisnow, an online publication focused on real estate, Bonner said he’s “skeptical” when he hears about outlets pivoting to video.

“I don’t think we’ve got to a point where we can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that video is the future. It’s part of the future, but is it the only future? I’m not so sure,” said Bonner.  “And I wonder if at a certain point at time, when these videos realize how hard it is to monetize video, if they’re going to revert back to more traditional methods.”

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You’ve probably seen it several times already: a website announces it is “pivoting to video.” It’s an eye-roll inducing cliche that nonetheless looms over the industry like a specter.

No one wants to read anymore, the conventional wisdom goes, and so it is that as digital outlets scramble to make money in an increasingly fractured media landscape, sites fire writers and turn to their new one true savior: Video.

Fox Sports axed 20 writing positions in June to focus on video. And millennial-focused news site Mic followed suit in August, laying off 25 members of its editorial staff.

It’s understandable why those sites might think video is the way forward. According to data from Pew Research Center last year, more Americans prefer to watch their news (46 percent) than read it (35 percent) or listen to it (17 percent).

But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The same research also indicates a generational divide, one favoring reading over video in the long term. By a slight percentage, Americans aged 18-29 prefer to read their news; the same is true for people aged 30-49.

In other words, a blanket “video over copy” game plan is misguided — especially when targeting a younger demo.

Ask Mark Bonner, former managing editor of International Business Times. He’s seen how the bet can backfire firsthand. IBT placed a strong emphasis on video in early 2016, adding auto-play clips to all of its stories. Coupled with the site’s ad-heavy layout, the videos were a disaster, Bonner says. Rather than draw new eyeballs in, it scared readers away.

“I certainly saw it had a very adverse affect on the overall audience numbers, per day, per week, per month. That average time spent per page —  which was already very low — dipped even more,” Bonner told TheWrap. “Basically what was happening was, once they put auto-play in, and it was being married with the other programatic ads, it was like people were coming into the website and saying ‘oh man, I’ve made a mistake and I gotta go.'”

The “hurried decision” rubbed both its audience and its editorial staff the wrong way, according to Bonner.

“It was offensive internally, and it was offensive externally [to the audience],” said Bonner.  “We paid for that, in terms of, the audience didn’t stay with us. And when the audience left, all hell broke loose for us.”

At the time its video strategy was implemented, IBT looked to be a well-oiled machine. The New York-based outlet had 125 writers and editors, churned out 100-15o pieces of content per day, and had 35-40 million unique visitors each month. As Bonner puts it, IBT had a “deep bench” that knew how to make the written word play online “down to a science.”

That formula was irredeemably tweaked once video was added. When asked what the driving force was behind the decision, Bonner had one word: “Money.” Looking to leverage its audience, the business arm of IBT aimed to generate ad dollars by ramping up video views. The results were costly.

“[The pivot to video] was forced on us, and I never got an explanation why, but I can only guess they were looking at the balance sheets and saying ‘this is a fast way for us to make up some gains,'” said Bonner. “It didn’t work, as far as I can tell, because we all got laid off.”

Instead of ushering in a new era for IBT, the publication sputtered. Its editorial staff dwarfed its video team, with only three people dedicated to placing clips on stories. When readers stuck around to actually watch the videos, the content routinely failed to compliment the written story. Bonner pointed to stories on Snapchat having political clips rolling alongside them.

The botched video rollout compounded underlying business issues for IBT. A round of layoffs came in the spring of 2016, followed by 32 more employees — including Bonner — losing their jobs early in the summer.

In hindsight, the muddled approach made it clear to Bonner pivoting to video isn’t as simple as throwing as much content against the wall as possible and hoping it sticks. An outlet has to have the internal bandwidth and talent to pull off an effective pivot.

“Monetizing video isn’t easy,” said Bonner. “It really depends on what kind of publisher you are and the audience you have. And the rollout of that strategy has to be perfect.”

According to Similar Web, IBT’s current monthly traffic for the last three months has averaged around 21 million visitors per month. Data for the period prior to the site’s 2016 pivot is not publicly available, but current traffic numbers are about half of what Bonner tells the wrap the site used to get. TheWrap has reached out to IBT for clarification and comment.

However, data is available for Fox Sports: that site has seen its audience vanish since its pivot, with page views diving 88 percent.

Now Editor-in-Chief of Bisnow, an online publication focused on real estate, Bonner said he’s “skeptical” when he hears about outlets pivoting to video.

“I don’t think we’ve got to a point where we can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that video is the future. It’s part of the future, but is it the only future? I’m not so sure,” said Bonner.  “And I wonder if at a certain point at time, when these videos realize how hard it is to monetize video, if they’re going to revert back to more traditional methods.”

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Digital-Media Startup Mic Banks $21 Million From Time Warner, Others

Mic, a digital news and lifestyle media startup targeting (who else?) millennials, announced that it has raised $21 million in Series C financing from investors including Time Warner. The round was led by previous investor Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from Time Warner Investments, Kyu Collective and You & Mr. Jones, an ad-tech startup formed by… Read more »

Mic, a digital news and lifestyle media startup targeting (who else?) millennials, announced that it has raised $21 million in Series C financing from investors including Time Warner. The round was led by previous investor Lightspeed Venture Partners, with participation from Time Warner Investments, Kyu Collective and You & Mr. Jones, an ad-tech startup formed by... Read more »

Obama TV? President Considers Launching Media Company (Report)

President Barack Obama is considering launching a digital media company, Mic’s Jake Horowitz says, citing “multiple sources” who were not “authorized to speak for the president.”

It was widely speculated that Donald Trump planned to start a media organization if he lost November’s election. But in a plot twist it appears Obama, who’s going to need a job in a couple months, is the one exploring his media options.

Horowitz reported that Obama “has been discussing a post-presidential career in digital media” and “considers media to be a central focus” of his post-White House aspirations.

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The report also said the sources feel Obama’s next gig could range from anything to a Netflix show to a web series.

“While the president will remain actively engaged in inspiring young people and he is interested in the changing ways people consume information, he has no plans to get into the media business after he leaves office,” a White House spokesperson told Mic.

Obama is clearly a terrific public speaker with a huge fanbase and has proven to be competent on social media, and it’s not outrageous to suggest that people would care what the soon-to-be former POTUS has to say. However, media has been plagued by fake news, claims of bias and the threat of stricter libel laws since the 2016 election began dominating the industry nearly two years ago.

Four former aides to President Obama, Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor, host The Ringer’s “Keeping’ It 1600” podcast, so perhaps he’ll stick his toe there if he truly wants to enter the media lagoon.

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President Barack Obama is considering launching a digital media company, Mic’s Jake Horowitz says, citing “multiple sources” who were not “authorized to speak for the president.”

It was widely speculated that Donald Trump planned to start a media organization if he lost November’s election. But in a plot twist it appears Obama, who’s going to need a job in a couple months, is the one exploring his media options.

Horowitz reported that Obama “has been discussing a post-presidential career in digital media” and “considers media to be a central focus” of his post-White House aspirations.

The report also said the sources feel Obama’s next gig could range from anything to a Netflix show to a web series.

“While the president will remain actively engaged in inspiring young people and he is interested in the changing ways people consume information, he has no plans to get into the media business after he leaves office,” a White House spokesperson told Mic.

Obama is clearly a terrific public speaker with a huge fanbase and has proven to be competent on social media, and it’s not outrageous to suggest that people would care what the soon-to-be former POTUS has to say. However, media has been plagued by fake news, claims of bias and the threat of stricter libel laws since the 2016 election began dominating the industry nearly two years ago.

Four former aides to President Obama, Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor, host The Ringer’s “Keeping’ It 1600” podcast, so perhaps he’ll stick his toe there if he truly wants to enter the media lagoon.

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