Millennial-Focused Media Company Mic to Experiment With Paid Subscriptions

Eyes Video for Subscription Exploration

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Mic CEO Chris Altchek.
Mic CEO Chris Altchek. Credit: Mic

Like explorers on the high seas, digital media companies these days are looking left and right, high and low, for new sources of revenue. Advertising, branded content in particular, has become a huge business for companies like BuzzFeed and Vox Media, but revenue diversity is considered the real key.

With that in mind, Mic, which produces journalism and entertainment content for a millennial audience, is planning to experiment with subscriptions, which could provide a trickle (at first) of consumer revenue to supplement the money the company makes from branded content deals.

"Licensing is [becoming] a very interesting business for video producers," Mic CEO Chris Altchek told Ad Age on Twitter. "Experiments in subs coming."

Video, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, will be Mic's first area of subscription experimentation. (Mic acquired the mobile video platform Hyper in March.)

In late January, Mr. Altchek told an industry conference called Buying & Selling Content that subscriptions could be something Mic attempts down the road. "I do think, over time, there's a big licensing business and a big subscription business to be built, as well," he added.

He suggested that Mic wouldn't be interested in putting paywalls around the written content on its website, or anything like that. "Unfortunately, the market value for text-written news is not incredibly high right now ... due to the volume being produced," he said.

Generally speaking, Mr. Altchek is bullish on the digital media business model. "There's more money in digital publishing than ever before," he wrote recently on Medium. "Advertising budgets have risen consistently and the ecosystem has matured to the point of supporting large dynamic publishing business."

Mic is not the only digital-native media company that's interested in bringing in consumer revenue. In October 2015, Business Insider Senior VP-Product John Ore wrote: "We also plan to offer a broader subscription option for those who prefer to pay us directly." (Business Insider President Julie Hansen told Ad Age there's nothing new to report on that front.)

Email newsletter theSkimm, which has 3.5 million subscribers, recently introduced a paid feature that inserts relevant, interesting events into a customer's calendar. At $2.99 per month, Skimm Ahead, as it's called, isn't going to make theSkimm a unicorn, but if even a tiny, tiny fraction of the newsletter's subscribers sign up, the company will have a sizable new revenue source.

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