Based in New York City, the website was founded in 2011 by Chris Altchek and Jake Horowitz. The two recent college graduates had noticed that mainstream media outlets were not including their demographic in news conversations, so the longtime friends decided to create that platform for young people.
According to Horowitz, monthly website traffic is at 7.5 million unique visitors with 60,000 registered users. He said the average age of each visitor is 26.
Whether it’s discussion centered on the conflicts in Syria or the announcement of the new iPhone, Horowitz, who also serves as editor-in-chief, said the idea is to “spark conversation on current events among millennials.”
To become a writer, PolicyMic implements a Mic system. Users create an account, comment on articles and give Mics to articles and comments they think are thoughtful. Users start as rookies with a 350 character limit and after reaching 100 Mics, they become pundits, which give them a 750 character limit. The more Mics a user receives, the higher they move up the chain to getting published.
“The Mic system is meant to encourage high quality participation,” Horowitz said. “It gives people an incentive to say something smart.”
Writers can also apply outside the Mic system by submitting a resume and writing sample. Students have the option to write for university credit. Currently, most of the writers are unpaid, but Horowitz said he and Altchek are experimenting with ways to pay their top writers.
Currently, PolicyMic publishes between 60 to 100 articles daily, written by some of their 2,000 pundits worldwide. Horowitz said the workflow is a very structured model and the story is looked at by editors and an analytics team before it goes live, ensuring that a writer’s story receives maximum exposure.
Last month, PolicyMic relaunched with a brand new look and logo. It features new sections such as breaking news and viral. Horowitz said the site will also experiment with video, a new phone app and a newsletter product. The relaunch also saw the end of its banner ads. Horowitz said the revenue model will now focus on sponsored content.
Looking ahead, Horowitz said PolicyMic will continue to produce high-quality content. “We want to be the New York Times for our generation. A place where 18-to-35-year-olds can read, write and discuss the news.”