Mic wants to promote activism with a new widget and messaging bot
Editorial policy at several digital-only news outlets reveals a stated belief that some issues don't have two sides. BuzzFeed favors "civil rights, women’s rights, anti-racism and LGBT equality." The Huffington Post openly declares Donald Trump to be "racist" and "a serial liar." Gawker Media's headlines frequently skew toward the unabashedly opinionated.
Count Mic among that group. Recent stories on sexual assault, transgender issues and Donald Trump ditch traditional notions of journalistic objectivity in favor of authoritative analysis or voice-ier writing ("way to horrify the Internet, Mr. Trump," reads the blurb for an article on Trump's recent taco bowl tweet).
"Objectivity has been debated for years," said Cory Haik, Mic's chief strategy officer. "It's a subjective conversation. I think you could go to the ivory towers of journalism and talk to the most respectable journalism schools, and what you'll get inside that world is people saying, 'I'm not sure that you can be entirely objective. I'm not sure it's possible.'"
Many readers of Mic — about 70 percent of whom are millennials — are often looking for more than just the facts in articles, Haik said. When they're done finishing the story, many are seeking ways to engage with the issues explored in the article beyond just sharing a link on their various social networks.
So, the millennial-focused news startup will try out a new feature, called "Offsite," that gives readers the option of taking some sort of advocacy step as soon as they're finished with a story. Offsite, a widget that integrates with many advocacy-focused websites, would instantly allow readers to sign a Change.org petition related to sexual assault, for example, enable them to contribute to a related Kickstarter campaign or RSVP to a protest via Eventbrite.
"It's designed specifically for our audience, because we know that they're very engaged and they care about the issues that we write about," Haik said. "Our audience in particular comes to us for a lot of things around social justice and the progressive policies that we illustrate in a big way."
Offsite will also include a bot that works on apps like Kik and Facebook Messenger that exchanges messages with Mic readers to keep them aware of advocacy issues and ways they can help. This puts Mic among the early wave of news organizations — including CNN and The Huffington Post — that are experimenting with bots in the wake of Facebook's decision to launch a bot platform for Facebook Messenger.
Offsite was dreamed up in a recent hack-a-thon at the Global Editors Network by Sarah Singer, the Director of Editorial Innovation at Mic, along with Ryan Campbell, an engineer at Mic and Tri Vo, a designer at Mic. The proposal for the project, which ultimately won the hack-a-thon, envisioned connecting online audiences to offline causes.
Young readers are engaged in social justice issues. They use their online profiles to define themselves to others, making the newsfeed both a mirror and a microphone. Online activism and IRL action are more interwoven than ever. Offsite brings them together.
Offsite, which is slated to go live in May, might also gin up some revenue for Mic, Haik said. Display space on the entire Offsite widget — or a panel on the widget — can be sold to advertisers who are interested in having their brands associated with the idea of philanthropy.
But Mic hasn't budgeted the revenue that Offsite might ultimately generate, Haik said. Ultimately, the tool is aimed primarily at Mic's audience.
"For us, this is furthering the mission of the work that we do and allowing our readers to engage more deeply and meaningfully, which is core to Mic at large," Haik said.
Correction: A previous version of this story said Offsite was live already. It's scheduled to launch later this month. We apologize for the error.