By Anne Koopman
Mindshakes, a new online news platform for the Dutch millennial. Is this the answer to the big question; how to reach Generation Y?
Only a couple of days ago, Mindshakes celebrated their one-month anniversary. The online platform by now has more than 6.700 likes on Facebook and 283 followers on Twitter, and Editor in Chief Ward Wijndelts says the achieved results so far exceed all expectations. So a celebration for success seems valid, but what makes this new medium not yet another online platform for the millennials?
From luring to reaching
Mindshakes is launched by Ward Wijndelts, and his colleague Sabrina Simons, who got his journalistic expertise from the Dutch media brand NRC. The news medium is a platform for comics, documentaries and informative blogposts about current topics the team of editors believe the millennials want to know more about. Think about issues as stress, sex and relationships, but also poverty and the project Ghost Boat, a series of articles which tell the story of the refugee boat who got missing in 2014.
Wijndelts, who has a long history at NRC’s product innovation department, explains how he realized previous developed innovations by NRC were not suitable for young people. Just like many other innovations, they were mostly meant to lure people to the developed platforms, something which Wijndelts labels as outdated in these times of the internet. “Innovations should be about how to reach the millennials with content they are interested in. It should not be necessary to reach them on your own platform, you should reach them where they already are, on social media.”
While Wijndelts originally created Mindshakes as part of NRC, he quickly decided it was going to be better if it is a brand on its own. With a business model based on branded content the established believe of independent news from NRC could be at stake. NRC is a media brand known for its qualitative and independent content, and the target group, professionals and educated people, might have serious issues with paid coverage. The young audience of Mindshakes, Wijndelts argues, however does not care about the business model, as long as they are transparent about it.
Besides the business model, the platform also likes to take their content to the edge of subjective reporting. In addition to the original five W’s we can all remember from journalism class, Mindshakes includes a sixth W, the what now or what is next.
(Ward Wijndelts, Source: Mindshakes website)
Content for the mind
Not convinced Mindshakes is not just another concept for Millennials? Then let me explain a little more about the Mindshakes structure. If you have not yet thought about it, the name seems a little weird. It implies content that shakes the readers or conceivers mind. Something the editors indeed want to do. They want to perform committed journalism, devoted to the topic ánd to the audience. Also, the journalists are not afraid to take a stand.
But the name Mindshakes is only one part of the content pyramid Wijndelts describes. On the top, he explains, we can find Mindsnacks, such as previews, summaries of blogpost and short documentaries which are shared on social media. This first moment of contact is crucial. How to get the like on Facebook? Wijndelts: “If the receivers likes what they see, they are directed to website for the actual Mindshake.” The article or post ends with the Mindfood. Here you can find a transparent overview of sources (including the brand sponsoring the content) and tips for further information on the topic.
A new level of interaction
Mindshakes is not unique in its activiness on the social web. In times where social media is indispensable in a young person’s life, Facebook and Twitter seem a perfect fit for interaction between the journalists and audience. Never before it has been this easy to get in contact with an editor. But what I like most about Mindshakes perhaps is the step of taking the interaction partly offline.
Eventhough claiming to know what this group of people would like to read seems very overenthusiastic, to some point Mindshakes’ seems to know what they talk about. Every month, the editors team plans on having meetings at locations such as theaters with a group of Millennials to discuss these issues. Wijndelts believes this is a very promising format and even applies for a funding for press innovations by the Dutch governmnent.
But how about the future? The first month of success is very encouraging. However, we have seen many young platforms for the Millennials fail. Even though the deliberative choice of avoiding daily news seems to distinguish Mindshakes from other websites for this target group, they should be careful of not moving away from the news. Keep your unique value in mind. I’m curious to see if and how long Mindshakes will survive in this big pool of news providers. With me, they have at least one fan extra.
Anne Koopman is a Dutch journalist, currently finishing her Master’s in journalism & media. Contact her on Twitter.