Holy Grails, are, by definition, hard to come by.
If they were easy, they would not be so sought after.
Making news profitable for millenials (and their younger siblings and soon their children) has been a holy grail in the media world for a long time. So far, no one has found it, and yesterday, yet another contender bit the dust.
News is a tough commodity to sell. What makes it hard is that it has no shelf life. This is particularly true in the digital world, in which pretty much everything sticks around forever. You can amortize the cost of a series on Netflix because it is always uo there, always attracting visitors.
From time to time I still see reruns of a series called Trauma, Life in the ER, which I produced in the 1990s. It is still on air, because a knife in the head is as good in 2018 as it was in 1996, apparently.
Not so with news.
No one is really interested in looking a yesterday's news, let along news programs from 1996. News has a shorter shelf life than unrefirgerated artesinal mayonaise.
And, as it turns out, even today's news has less appeal to anyone under the age of 50. Just take a look at the ads: Viagra, Cialis, Optivo and a dozen other drugs for diseases that you don't think about at the age of 20 or even 40.
So when a company like MIC comes along and says it has the magic formula to make news appealing to the magic 18-23 year old set, people sign up. In fact, they do more than that - they write checks - lots of checks. And, with investor cash to burn, companies like MIC sign up a bunch of millenial journalists to go out and report on stories that can be put online.
The problem - no revenue.
No revenue because no advertising.
No advertising because almost no one is actually reading them or watching them
The curse of Capitalism.
Here's rule Number One: If there's no revenue, there's no journalism. Revenue comes first, journalism follows; not the other way around.
So yesterday, Chris Altchek, the 31- year old founder of MIC announced to his staff of more than 100 employees that it was pretty much all over.
Here's a quote from the NY Times story on this that I just LOVE:
“For those of us who didn’t have insight into the financials, the shock was just that we were relying so heavily on it,” said one of the employees, a senior member of the editorial staff.
Man! Talk about living in La La Land. 'We never realized that we had to make money to stay in business...'
That's what happens with the cosseted millenial world hits real life. That''s what happens when your parents provide you with everytihng.... but I digress.
VICE tried this a few years ago and pivoted to becoming essentailly a production company for HBO; their primary source of revenue. However, their stuff does not exaclty rate on HBO and my guess is that this model will not last either.
Why do advertisers crave 18-23 year olds? Becasue if you spend a million dollars on ads and you can convince an 18 year old to use your toothpaste, he or she will keep buying the toothpaste for another 70 years. Spend the same million dollars on ads to sell your toothpaste to an 80 year old, and they will be a great customer for the next six months.
The primary problem seems to be that millenials don't really care to watch, read, or anything else with the news. It is BORING.
And therein lies a much more fundamental issue.