From the room where Mic publisher Cory Haik is speaking over the phone to Fishbowl, she can see the publication’s newest hire, Stephanie Wu, getting settled on what is her first day. “There’s a lot of excitement about Stephanie,” says Haik of Wu, who joins as editor, food and travel, and will be responsible for overseeing Out of Office, the food and travel-focused digital channel that is set to launch in a few weeks. When it does, it will be joining a lineup of seven topic-specific digital channels Mic introduced at the end of March.
In many ways, the path Wu has set for herself mirrors what Haik hopes to achieve with Out of Office, from Wu’s “experience in the luxury world of travel and food” to “her very entrepreneurial and scrappy sensibility to build something and to build an audience” to the “community-building Stephanie will be uniquely suited for.” Haik is describing Wu’s most recent role as senior editor at Travel + Leisure as well as her role as founder, in 2008, of Mochi Magazine, a site that describes itself as “dedicated to young Asian American women.”
“It’s such a modern approach to journalism, to publishing,” says Haik, “to work at someplace like Travel + Leisure but then also build your own brand and your own publication by way of harnessing the power of internet and growing your audience by social.”
That is, in fact, how Mic has grown its own channels, many of which began life on social before being introduced on Mic’s digital site. Out of Office currently exists as an Instagram account that provides a bite-by-bite survey of food offerings from around the world. But the plan for the Out of Office channel is larger than serving as a mere repository for food porn.
“We’ll cover the basics,” says Haik, “the most important destinations, the foods you should eat, but we think there’s a lot more nuance within the world of travel, particularly for our demographic, which we’d probably describe as being seekers.” The channel will cover food and travel in a way that addresses that sensibility and the particularities of how its audience travels. “They’re consciousness about their footprint, wanting to travel authentically, and in a lot of ways the share economy has enabled a lot of that, and so we’ll touch on those kinds of pieces and how to travel in a very authentic fashion where you can really embed with a community or eat that authentic food that you want and then share those experiences by way of social media.”
While inhabiting the luxury and lifestyle sphere, the channel will also stay true to its Mic-ian roots, corresponding, as Haik describes it, to “Mic’s overall values in how we think about the world.”
But Out of Office and other channels allow Mic to expand its advertising opportunities. “It’s not always easy to monetize tragedy or things that are complicated,” Haik said in a recent podcast interview with Digiday editor in chief Brian Morrissey, describing how the hard news stories upon which Mic was built are “not always the most appetizing thing for brands.” The channels, rich in multi-platform advertising opportunities, including video, where Mic is making a concentrated effort, provide that entry point–especially those channels that deal in soft news.
“Our audiences want this content, so if we can bring our brand partners together in something that feels very editorially strong in the right direction, it’s sort of a win/win,” says Haik.