In the competitive and brutal world of new media journalism startups, players come and players go — but one contender just got a boost to keep them in the ring. PolicyMic has raised a $10 million Series A funding round after their audience grew 550 percent in 2013.
PolicyMic wasn’t going to go looking for more funding until next year, PolicyMic CEO and cofounder Christopher Altchek told Betabeat, but as the audience came rushing in, PolicyMic wanted to start hiring additional staff, and needed the extra cash. The investment round was lead by Jim Clark, who cofounded Netscape and has previously invested in Facebook, Twitter, and Apple.
“Jim believes in our vision and sees the opportunity to build PolicyMic into one of the major media brands of our era,” Mr. Altchek said.
PolicyMic wants to be the go-to for hard news and analysis for millennials. They’re less edgy than Vice News, more focused than The Huffington Post, and publish lots of explainers with slightly “Upworthy” headlines. Millennials are a sought-after demographic, and attempts to build a millennial-specific platform often come in the form of niche, feel-good cable networks like Pivot and Fusion (because if there’s any way to reach millennials, it’s broadcast television), or news sites that hardly resemble “news” at all, like Buzzfeed or Elite Daily.
“By 2017, millennial spending power will be larger than that of the Baby Boomer generation, yet our media consumption habits are completely different,” Mr. Altchek said.
PolicyMic isn’t a sustainable business yet, but they plan on monetizing with ad revenue — a Herculean task for new media companies as worthwhile ad impressions become more scarce and less valuable.
“With millennials watching less TV, consuming almost no print, and ignoring banner ads, traditional advertising is not an effective way to engage young people,” Mr. Altchek said.
By “engage,” Mr. Altchek means getting young people to actually click and read ads. To that end, it’s likely that they’ll roll out the kind of sponsored content model that have been recently popular with their competitors. They’ve run a few pilot programs so far, and Mr. Altchek said they’ve started developing relationships with brands and larger companies.
And considering that PolicyMic is in the increasingly rare habit of actually paying each one of its writers, editors and contributors, they’re going to need to “engage” millennials enough to pay their growing staff.