Home The Sell Sider What Went Wrong For Mic

What Went Wrong For Mic


The Sell Sider” is a column written for the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Rob Gabel, founder and CEO at Tubular Labs.

Digital-native publishers sailed against strong headwinds in 2018, as continual shifts in the business model forced budget cuts, downsizing, “pivots to video” and more hurdles to success.

One recent casualty is Mic, which raised more than $50 million in funding through 2017 and was reportedly valued at well over $100 million. A year later, Mic sold to Bustle for just $5 million.

Other articles have pointed out some of what went wrong for Mic and similar media companies: Overreliance on social media algorithms, low ad rates and shifting editorial approaches stopped it from monetizing to the extent necessary.

Those factors may all have played a part in the site’s downturn. Media entities need to clear four hurdles to succeed: scale, audience engagement, multiplatform audiences and diversified revenue streams.

For much of its existence, Mic has been an amazing vehicle for creating purpose-driven content, with the recent pivot to long-form journalism on progressive issues just the latest example of how it was committed to a noble approach (see one of many videos aimed at thought-provoking topics for millennials).

But the company simply failed to reach scale with an audience. Did it have monetization problems? Sure, but you can’t monetize a small audience – or at least you can’t expect to monetize it with advertising.

Diversifying audiences and platforms plays a key role in the accomplishments of higher-end publishers, allowing them to pursue numerous avenues at once in an effort to scale. For Mic, most social video viewers came from Facebook. By completely ignoring the potentially interested consumers on other platforms, the company was stifling growth before it even started. Failing to consider such a large portion of a potential audience undermines quality content, too.

Having the most engaging, premium journalism is great. But large audiences come from paid strategies today, and engagement is what you build businesses on top of.

When Bustle relaunches Mic, it should approach audiences across multiple platforms and find ways to tell stories in both video and text forms. Using that diversified approach to monetize the content comes next. With a newly-engaged audience, Mic will have a solid foundation for building paid partnerships and branded content.


AdExchanger Daily

Get our editors’ roundup delivered to your inbox every weekday.

Moreover, other media businesses have already figured out that content is but one potential revenue stream. Industry events, awards and creative and analyst services allow for an expansion of what media can be, without truly leaving behind core competencies.

Today’s media landscape is tough for digital-native publishers, but it’s far from impossible. Entities new and old need to be ready to evolve their businesses and embrace a diversified approach. Mic took a hit when Facebook changed its algorithm, was rescued temporarily with a Facebook Watch original show, and then took a hit again when that show was canceled. This next chapter is a chance for it to correct that misstep and maybe provide an example for how similar publications can do the same in the future.

Follow Tubular Labs (@TubularLabs) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

Must Read

Advertible Makes Its Case To SSPs For Running Native Channel Extensions

Companies like TripleLift that created the programmatic native category are now in their awkward tween years. Cue Advertible, a “native-as-a-service” programmatic vendor, as put by co-founder and CEO Tom Anderson.

Mozilla acquires Anonym

Mozilla Acquires Anonym, A Privacy Tech Startup Founded By Two Top Former Meta Execs

Two years after leaving Meta to launch their own privacy-focused ad measurement startup in 2022, Graham Mudd and Brad Smallwood have sold their company to Mozilla.

Nope, We Haven’t Hit Peak Retail Media Yet

The move from in-store to digital shopper marketing continues, as United Airlines, Costco, PayPal, Chase and Expedia make new retail media plays. Plus: what the DSP Madhive saw in advertising sales software company Frequence.

Privacy! Commerce! Connected TV! Read all about it. Subscribe to AdExchanger Newsletters
Comic: Ad-ception

The New York Times And Instacart Integrate For Shoppable Recipes

The New York Times and Instacart are partnering for shoppable recipe videos.

Experian Enters The Third-Party Data Onboarding Business

Experian entered the third-party data onboarder market on Tuesday with a new product based on its Tapad acquisition.

Albertsons Takes Its First Steps Into Non-Endemic Advertising, Retail Media’s Next Frontier

Albertsons is taking that first step into non-endemic advertising next week via a partnership with Rokt to serve ads to people who have already purchased groceries.