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Newsy turns its back on electoral politicking by focusing on the issues

Millennial-facing video news network Newsy is taking a different tack in its coverage of the American political climate, embarking on a month-long video series from which the presidential candidates will be conspicuously absent.

Newsy?s series is called #OffTheTrail and will focus on material ramifications of the policies that the candidates have been debating this election season. It comes as many consumers, specifically millennials, are suffering from a sort of political fatigue in media consumption concerning the election, and could act as a panacea to an involved subgroup of millennials.

?Newsy has a few differentiators to stand out in the glut of election-related content, chief among them being its ability to engage millennials,? said James McNally, director of digital strategy at TDT New York. ?Some of its competitors like Complex have made solid inroads into this space.  

?One big factor in Newsy's favor is that even as a ?legitimate? media and news organization, it has few qualms about going places where other news organizations won't, both in terms of actual physical locations and subject matter.?

Issue driven
The series will take Newsy?s policy team to important locales around the nation, including a Virginia island sinking due to climate change, the Midwest to examine its clean energy boom and West Virginia to highlight the heroin epidemic ravaging its citizens. One of the videos will focus on the evolution of voter ID laws, which has become a hot-button? and unfortunately controversial? topic as Election Day draws near.

Each video will be hosted on Newsy?s mobile-optimized Web site, along with an accompanying article to provide more context for readers on mobile devices. The series will also be available through the Newsy application.

?Any media company whose strategy relies on users consuming their content through the network's own native app is playing a risky game; in a fragmented content landscape, restricting your content to your own native apps is generally not the best idea,? Mr. McNally said. ?This content will be consumed through Newsy's apps, but the right play would be to also share it via E.W. Scripps?s other properties.?

The series will cover hot news topics

The videos, played through Newsy?s own platform, are also prefaced by ad content geared towards millennials, creating another revenue stream for the fledgling media company. And the structure of the content keeps the criteria mobile users have in mind, featuring bite-sized content lengths and an array of infographics to keep users entertained. 

The content is well-shot and engaging, managing to provide clear overviews of the issues facing the country without editorializing. A standout of the series is the aforementioned entry focusing on Huntington, West Virginia?s heroin epidemic, depicting the city?s journey from host to nine times the national average of drug overdose deaths to becoming a model throughout the state for compassionate drug sentencing.

The series is not without its problems, however. The content may be mobile-optimized to a fault; users watching on their desktops may be frustrated at some user experience issues that cause the video to lose its place and restart if they scroll down to peek at the article. 

A few issues still persist, such as the above pause symbol on the mobile client which could not be avoided

News for millennials
Storytelling and news production geared towards millennials can be a tricky thing for companies to undertake, and is generally best left to millennials themselves. Newsy and primary competitor VICE both take an intelligent approach to creating authentic content sourced from young, capable journalists and posted in the mobile video format. 

Newsy?s take on political content, focusing on common people and places doing exceptional things, mirrors in many ways VICE?s gonzo-style approach to video journalism. But by taking such an explicit sidestep away from the parade of personality that the election has become, Newsy separates itself from VICE in a manner that could be attractive to consumers weary from the glut of electoral political coverage.

Political coverage has been a particularly fecund area for media publications, especially in this election cycle. Last month, the USA Today Network crafted a new voting initiative aimed at social media users, called Voting Because, that offers a meme generator, registration tools and educational content on hot-button issues (see story).

And platforms such as Twitter are seeing potential, as well. Media powerhouse Buzzfeed is partnering with the social media giant to put on a live election night special (see story). 

?While the ?issues that affect real Americans? is something that every network wants to cover, mainstream networks seem incapable of providing anything more than an overly polished look at stereotypical voter archetypes? the socially liberal yet fiscally conservative undecided voter, etc.,? Mr. McNally said. ?The question here is less about whether Newsy's topical focus is the right move, and more about how the content is produced: does it offer the type of gut-level realness that VICE is known for, that other news organizations typically can't come close to. ?