Vice, too, produces original longform video, albeit with a very different attitude. Its crews go out and shoot documentaries like no one else’s—most recently, the brand scored a world exclusive with basketball star Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea. HBO has contracted Vice to do a 30-minute weekly show that debuted in April. The first episode featured trips to report on political violence in the Philippines and child suicide bombers in Afghanistan.
A descendant of the Voice of Montreal, which was founded in 1994, Vice is now a free monthly magazine with a circulation of 1.2 million; its website has almost 10 million monthly unique visitors. Vice does not have a sweatshop of aggregators churning out summaries of other people’s reporting; it finds original stories and puts a distinctive spin on them (a classic example: “Heavy Metal in Baghdad,” a 2007 documentary about an Iraqi band that also, of course, explored the Iraq War).
Vice is the modern Web’s answer to a subversive alt-weekly tabloid, housed in a converted warehouse in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. “We have hundreds of young people here, telling stories in their own voice,” says Sterling Proffer, Vice’s director of platform. “The training in journalism school is to remove yourself from the story. We don’t.”
Another new video brand that has found serious traction is The Young Turks (TYT), which calls itself “the largest online news show in the world” and now logs 30 million page views per month. Begun as a Sirius Satellite Radio show in 2002, TYT has since branched out beyond politics and economics to produce shows on everything from film to sports. The presentation is energetic and irreverent. As founder and host Cenk Uygur says, “You know what, old media? We’re comin’ for ya.”
They rarely visit your homepage
Early on, websites were designed like print publications, with homepages serving as a front page or table of contents, and individual articles, as in a magazine or newspaper, offering little besides the piece itself and a few links to related content (often chosen by a software algorithm). Today, a reader usually arrives at an article page through a link to a particular item, as if opening a newspaper to the fourth page of Section 3.
“At both Huffington Post and Reuters, the majority of traffic comes through at the article level or content-piece level,” says Thomson Reuters’s Alex Leo. “That’s a huge shift. The older you get in the spectrum, the more people go to a homepage or topic page. Young people are more source-agnostic.”
Erica Berger, 26, until recently product partnership director at Storyful, a wire service for social media, has the same view of the generational divide. “I hate homepages,” she says, adding that “millennials are thinking about content according to topic” rather than provider. “I want to read about the [presidential] inauguration from six or seven publications, and I want see what my friends are saying on Twitter and pictures people are taking on Instagram. I’m not just reading highly credentialed journalists; I’m also reading snarky commentary and regular people who were on the ground somewhere.”
Social-media users just click on whatever interests them. “If you’re talking about how normal [young] people are consuming news, it’s mostly links they see on social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr,” says Benjamin Jackson, 31, who worked on developing iPad and iPhone apps for The New York Times. “It is what we in computing nerdspeak call a ‘breadth-first search’ rather than ‘depth-first search.’ You cast a wide net and take out the best fish.”
They expect a conversation
Legacy media outlets can reach young audiences by pushing their content out through the mobile applications and social-media platforms. It’s the digital equivalent of what newspapers have always done: delivering the product daily right to your doorstep, giving that paper away for less than the cost of printing and distributing it, and also making sure they’re on every newsstand in town.