It was a year and a half ago when we (Mullen) launched The Next Great Generation. The idea was simple: practice a bit of crowdsourcing, experiment with online publishing, recruit young talent to the agency, create an opportunity for Gen-Y to speak its mind rather than be spoken for by all the marketers, planners and researchers who claimed to know about this generation.
We didn’t really know what we were doing, but what the hell. This was the new age of media. We didn’t have to have anything figured out. We could figure it out as we went along. Iterate. Pivot. (Pick your buzzword.)
In the beginning we thought we’d provide a window into the world of Millennials through which brands and marketers could peek and learn. We (Mullen) might get some credit, prove that we knew this generation, and maybe even snag a client or two. Fail. No young writer wanted to post a “let us tell you old folks about our generation” article in order that marketers could better figure out how to sell to or engage with 20-somethings.
Instead it turned out that the editors, writers and readers wanted to connect with each other. Share thoughts, observations and musings. Support one another’s efforts to get better at writing and developing content. And more importantly, try to build something that might have value and be enduring.
So we (Mullen) did what any smart grown-up ought to do. We got the hell out of the way. Alex Pearlman (she), a young editor right out college showed up and took over. She recruited editors, set up an editorial calendar, created theme weeks, evaluated writers and took the blog to a new level. Christine Peterson, a recent college grad employed as a social strategist at Mullen managed to find an extra 20 plus hours a week to become community manager — gathering and organizing the “crowd” of writers, suggesting articles, and injecting the project with a never ending supply of passion and enthusiasm.
Then, late last spring, the two of them decided it was time to expand. They contacted The Boston Globe, offered to show the newspaper the opportunity it was missing, and invited the editors to a presentation. And here’s where it got really good. My Gen-Y friends Alex and Christine polled Boston’s Millennials regarding their media habits. They shot and edited man-on-the-street interviews. They did an analysis of the kinds of relationships urban dailies and newsweeklies had with bloggers. And they put together a stand-up dog and pony show (without any help from anyone over 24 I might add) to take to Globe management, including its editor in chief Marty Baron. My favorite line from the presentation: “Our generation doesn’t want ‘the man’ telling us what’s news.” Mr. Baron is, of course, the man. But fortunately he didn’t seem to mind.
Fast forward a few months later. The contract with the Globe’s parent company The New York Times is done. TNGG lives on Boston.com. It will post hyper-local content for the city’s students, recent grads and 20-somethings, covering “what’s going on on-campus, in the clubs and pop-up galleries, in those boardrooms where flip-flops are allowed, and everything in between.”
If things work out, here’s what might happen. TNGG will have taken the first step in a new distribution model that might earn it a larger audience. A slew of young writers and journalists will gain visibility. Boston.com will demonstrate its progressiveness and win over a new generation of readers who might otherwise eschew a mainstream news channel. Alex and Christine will have set an example for young professionals everywhere. New TNGG boston.com editor Angela Stefano will have a really cool job. And I’ll be able to say I knew them all when.
Wish them luck. Become a reader of Boston.com/tngg. And share the links. They get paid based on traffic.