Bustle Digital Group Buys Publisher Mic in Another Tough Moment for Media

Chris Altchek-Getty-H 2018
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Grey Goose

Mic.com, which was founded in 2011, laid off the vast majority of its employees on Thursday.

Mic.com, long considered one of the smaller players in a larger movement of millennial-focused digital media companies like BuzzFeed and Vox Media that have challenged the legacy media power structure, has been sold to Bryan Goldberg's Bustle Digital Group.

"I can confirm that Bustle Digital Group has acquired Mic. We have no further comment," a spokesperson said on Thursday afternoon.

The company has been sold for "about $5 million," according to The Wall Street Journal.

Mic.com has been valued at $100 million, suggesting it was sold at a hefty discount, as was Mashable.com late last year. Both sales raise questions about the value of larger competitors in the industry.

Launched in 2011, Mic.com will join the company's flagship (and namesake) property Bustle.com, along with digital media acquisitions like Elite Daily and The Zoe Report that reach about 80 million readers a month (according to the company).

Mic.com is among several venture capital-funded digital media companies that have struggled to put a workable, sustainable business model in place, at times prioritizing branded content and then shifting to focus more on videos funded by social media giants.

The company laid off the majority of its New York-based staffers on Thursday. 

"The big mass firing at Mic involved them telling everyone to stay home apart from the fired ones," said one person familiar with the company. "They came to the office and their stuff was already packed for them."

According to Crunchbase, which tracks funding, the company has raised about $60 million in seven rounds, starting with a seed round in 2013 and ending most recently with a smaller round earlier this year.

The company was founded by two former prep school classmates: Chris Altchek, who still serves as chief executive, and Jake Horowitz, who now serves as editor at large (but once had oversight of editorial).

Mic.com was once positioned as the millennial answer to The New York Times. "New York Times coverage doesn’t resonate with our audience at all,” Horowitz said in late 2014.

The company has published excellent journalism along with articles and videos that have been decried as clickbait, though the company displayed a strong knack for Facebook virality.