In a report published by HuffPost on Tuesday, former employees from the Millennial-focused news site Mic describe the company’s downfall as the culmination of a toxic working environment paired with the financial consequences of unwise editorial decisions.
When Mic launched in 2011, it quickly garnered a massive following that lauded the site for covering topics of interest to teens and young adults, amplifying underrepresented voices and packaging it all into easily digestible pieces designed to be shared on social media. Alongside BuzzFeed, Mic seemed poised to fundamentally disrupt the way news organizations operate in the digital age. And in many ways, it did–but as a case study in what not to do.
The employee anecdotes and complaints included in the HuffPost piece are wide-ranging: one former staffer lamented how Mic offered personalized Nikes but not 401(k)s, while another pointed to how editorial priorities shifted away from quality reporting on underreported topics to content that would guarantee virality.
“There were writers who would have to churn out four or five or six pieces a day, and they could be great writers, but they could also just be completely in despair by an afternoon because who has that kind of stamina?” a former Mic staffer said.
Meanwhile, according to the report, distrust was brewing among staffers as company leaders traded in transparency (the co-founders originally “allowed employees to anonymously ask questions at meetings,” according to HuffPost) for hushed firings and two-faced staff meetings. And when Mic decided to invest heavily in creating videos for Facebook to counteract its declining revenue, the disappointing returns and the dissolution of a video series partnership with the social-media platform signaled the end. By November 2018, a majority of Mic’s staff were laid off and the site was sold to Bustle Digital Group, under the ownership of the controversial Bryan Goldberg.
As evidenced in the report, the materials for Mic’s grave were already in place when the company chose to focus so heavily on videos and virality on a single social-media platform–at the expense of staff morale and editorial integrity. “Hindsight is 20/20,” one former employee said to HuffPost, “but somehow all of the big forces we’ve seen impact digital newsrooms over the past five or so years, Mic seems to have found themselves swept up in just about all of them.”