Journalism Media

Vox Media: quality, scale and sustainability matter now more than ever

Founded in 2005, Vox Media features over 300 sites with a team of 400 paid writers. The company operates offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Austin, and San Francisco. Last Wednesday , Vox Media’s Chairman & CEO Jim Bankoff shared thoughts on the state of the industry to his staff. The address has been made public, and here are a few relevant excerpts:

Hi team,

I’ve had a lot of good questions lately about developments in our industry and what they mean for us, particularly around Facebook’s flurry of recent announcements as well as the reports of other companies facing financial turbulence. I wanted to take a moment to share some of my thoughts on the state of our business, where we’re headed, and how we will keep our growing, thriving company a success.

First, a recap. Over the past several years, our company has emerged as a leader in a cluttered media environment by successfully aligning two objectives: quality and scale.

Many companies in our space have pursued scale without quality. Their growth tactics have evolved from content farms and SEO or social feed gaming, to slideshows and three-second captioned Facebook views. Likewise, digital advertising has seen the demise of large ad networks that were built on pushing lousy formats in as many places as possible over brand building and performance. Of course, quality applies to how we seek to grow our culture too. We’ve seen too often how workplace cultures that scale without the right values lead to toxic environments.

Quality without scale often yields some amazing work, but generally doesn’t support the sustained breadth and depth of rich programming, strong journalism and product innovation that we seek to achieve. In the advertising business, scale is essential to merit the sustained commitment of marketers who need to reach audiences. Scale also enables diverse business models such as our fast growing TV and live events businesses. Even the biggest media conglomerates are bulking up as is evidenced with the recent slew of mega-mergers.

Quality at scale is a hard thing to accomplish, but we have. We are the leading programmers for a new generation of consumer, building brands that serve audiences and marketers across all relevant media types and platforms. Our unique approach to building big, trusted multi-media networks in major categories on a united monetization and product technology platform allows us to grow deep where others have faltered by scaling shallow. Our results prove this out. All of Vox Media’s properties grew their audiences by double-digits year-over-year off big bases: SB Nation (+31%), The Verge (+86%), Polygon (+61%), Vox (+21%), Eater (+26%), Racked (+42%), Curbed (+42%), and Recode (+33%).

Our growth has occurred on our websites and across many media platforms we count as partners. We are not dependent on any particular partner, including Facebook. As I mentioned in our all-hands in December, well before their announcement about algorithm changes, we had already made a decision to scale back our native programming on Facebook.

In 2018, we will get even more disciplined about maintaining a course of financial growth and strength. We will grow our organization, but not at the same pace as we have over the last few years. We’ll need to make smart choices on an ongoing basis about how to apply our resources. We will invest even more deeply in our SB Nation team brands, in growing our podcast and television efforts, in adding muscle to our revenue organization, and in continuing to develop the infrastructure of our organization by adding office space and more IT, comms, legal, finance, and people and culture support.

In order to put time and resources into the projects that most help us to deliver on the mission and goals of our organization, we’ll need to focus on the opportunities we have that are working, lean into them, and make tough decisions about how to re-prioritize the projects that are not as productive. Decisions to move on from initiatives that have less potential in an ever-changing environment are difficult. As I said in December, this work is hard, but it is worth it.

The really good news is that we’re entering an era where quality, scale and sustainability matter more than ever. Fake news and fake views are out. Trust, engaged communities, authentic voices and financial discipline are in. This all plays to our strengths. The work that you do matters more than ever and there isn’t a better place to do it. I couldn’t be more proud of that work and great company we are building together. Thank you for all you do.

Onward,

Jim

Read the full text here…

 

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