Newark's social-media-savvy mayor is diving into the digital game. Cory Booker tells Fast Company he's teaming up with Silicon Valley veterans to create a video site that will energize and engage Millennials around news and information that they care about, but in ways that traditional forms of media are not currently tapping into.
#waywire, backed by Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors, Josh Kopelman's First Round Capital, and Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter, will feature both professional video (aggregated from media partners and produced by #waywire) as well as content created by users themselves.
Millennials "want to see news and information coming not only from trusted news sources," says Booker (pictured, right). They also want to see "opinions, ideas, and values that other people have about [that news and information]."
The site will give users the ability to publish their own videos, to create their own streams (their own "wires," as it were), and publish those out to their social networks. (Think of it as a partially user-generated Funny or Die, but for news and social issues, with Pinterest/Twitter-style social dynamics.)
"We created a platform—a new social stream—for consuming information and ideas," Booker says. "But also for individuals to engage in that information and to participate in a more significant way."
Booker (an early social media adopter whose tweets rallied Newark during 2010's Snowpocalypse) is teaming up with Yahoo veteran and former Gilt Groupe executive Nathan Richardson and Sarah Ross, the digital marketing guru who got Ashton Kutcher to be the first person on Twitter with 1 million followers. Booker will be an adviser, but the mayor, who already has a demanding full-time job, won't be involved in day-to-day operations.
#waywire launches later this summer. Advising the startup are Ustream cofounder John Ham and Carter, founder of the L.A.-based talent management firm Atom Factory, whose early adoption of social media to promote emerging music artists has allowed him to develop keen intuitions about where new forms of media are headed.
"Troy believes that people are looking for a way to celebrate their voices but also to share news and information that they believe matters in the world," Richardson tells Fast Company. "He also recognizes that there are lots of disruptions happening with media [and that] it needs to be streamed into social utilities."
While Booker is motivated by the potential for promoting social good ("this is about empowering people," he says), at its core, #waywire is nevertheless still a for-profit play. (VCs, after all, have to produce returns for their partners.) Like traditional media companies, then, the site will rely on advertising for revenue.
But Richardson says he expects that #waywire's focus on social good won't detract from #waywire's profit potential. Instead, he says, it will actually be a selling point with the site's target market. Millennials, he says, "are driven by being associated with businesses that are in business for good."
And while he says the new site will pioneer a new form of "news" media, it won't necessarily supplant conventional streams of information.
In addition to partnering with traditional media outlets to aggregate their content on #waywire, the site, Richardson says, will serve as a lab to figure out "how to tap into this audience that's been really elusive for media companies to date."