Vox Media - Digital Media Conglomerate
A spinoff of a wildly popular sports blog, Vox Media is an online media publishing conglomerate valued at over $1B.
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Launched by Jim Bankoff and Trei Brundrett in 2011, Vox Media is an online mass media publishing conglomerate that manages a portfolio of editorial properties. It is made up of well-known media brands and numerous publications. It also owns a proprietary content management system and its own marketplace for advertising. It creates, publishes, and distributes engaging online content via multiple publications, thereby connecting young adults worldwide through that content.
Vox Media has raised a total of $307.6M in funding over 9 rounds and has a post-money valuation in the range of about $1B, according to Inc. Headquartered in Washington, it has offices in San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Austin, and London.
About Vox Media: Website, LinkedIn
Business Overview & Products
Vox Media owns a portfolio that features the most relevant and quality editorial properties across the biggest consumer categories, including but not limited to:
The Verge: technology, culture, and science news site
Vox: general interest news website that uses explanatory journalism
SB Nation: sports blogging network which covers several sports franchises
Polygon: gaming website that focuses on people making and playing the games
Eater: food and nightlife site that offers reviews and news about the restaurant industry
Curbed: real estate, home, and urban design website
Vox also owns several online publications such as The Strategist, New York Magazine, The Cut, and Vulture. It has its own enterprises, including the content management system called Chorus along with others such as Coral and Epic. These also include its own brands such as Vox Creative, Vox Entertainment, Vox Media Studios, and the Vox Media Podcast Network. Finally, it offers premium advertising solutions such as its marketplace for advertising called Concert as well as its podcasts.
How It Works
Vox Media acquires and consolidates brands into its growing portfolio at an impressive pace. Recently it acquired a podcasting newsletter called the Hot Pod in September 2021. A month prior to this, it acquired a well-known drinks publisher called Punch. Multiple other acquisitions were completed in a short period of time including Cafe Studios and podcast creator Criminal Productions. Currently, Vox Media’s portfolio comprises many brands such as The Verge, SB Nation, and Polygon. These editorial brands generate free-for-view content that caters to some of the biggest consumer categories. The Vox Media Podcast Network is one of the largest curations of popular podcasts covering technology, news, pop culture, and more. In addition, Vox Media Studios is a nonfiction production and distribution studio for many Television and streaming partners.
It also offers a premium suite of advertising solutions that aim to improve audience experience and brand results. These include Concert, a powerful publisher-led advertising marketplace that delivers scale, quality, turnkey execution, and responsible data. Other solutions include full-service content, custom responsive digital display, data science and more.
Business Model & Pricing
Vox Media owns a “portfolio of digital properties across many verticals and has not typically relied on reader revenue,” according to Digital Content Next. Instead, it leverages a revenue model across its portfolio that consists of advertising, branded content, and commerce content across print, digital, audio, and video mediums.
At the time of its launch, Vox Media had largely been free to access. Moreover, without a paywall or subscription product, advertising was its major source of revenue. This changed when it acquired New York Media in 2019, which relied heavily on reader revenue from subscriptions. New York Media uses a metered paywall which allows readers to access a limited amount of content before being prompted to subscribe to access the rest. More recently, the company acquired the popular newsletter Hot Pod, which is set to become the company’s first paid-for product. Vox plans to keep the subscription price for the newsletter at $7 per month and give all paid Hot Pod subscribers a 3-month subscription to New York Magazine.
In 2019, Vox media’s monthly visitors were about 125 million across its 13 editorial networks. At that point in time, it was gearing to acquire New York Media which would only help accelerate its growth.
Then in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic forced people around the world to stay in their homes, it drove unprecedented amounts of traffic towards online media companies. That year it witnessed a 40% surge in its website visits. To support this increase, the company turned to its audience and started a reader contribution initiative. This was meant to support Vox’s cross-platform journalism, and readers were given the option to contribute between $7, $18, $50 or $100, either as a monthly or a one-time payment. Moreover, Vox Media also partnered with Google in 2020 to create a local advertising network called Concert Local in an investment of over $1M. This network would pool together a collective ad inventory from many local news publishers, making it easier for big, national advertisers to target local news audiences.
Vox Media’s internal expectations about its growth trajectory are reflected through its goals. Digiday published an article in 2020 highlighting that the Vox Media Podcast Network had been generating over $10M a year in revenue from a roster of more than 200 shows across Vox’s 14 brands, and the company aimed at achieving a minimum of $20M in 2020. By the end of December 2020, Vox Media was aiming for more than $100M in revenue in 2021 through its podcast and video productions. According to the New York Times, its overall revenue at that point was roughly $300M.
From April 2021, as explained by Axios, “Comscore ranks Vox Media as the 33rd-most popular media company among users from the United States. In the future, Vox Media Studios wants to start building out more TV and streaming franchises for brands it acquired via the New York Media merger. It is also looking to expand from producing mostly its own shows to producing more for other companies.”
Moreover, according to its website, today Vox Media can boast the following statistics:
112 Million people reached each month on our sites alone
2.3 Million magazine readers
68 Million social footprint
20 Million people monthly podcast downloads
220 Million reached monthly on publisher-led Concert marketplace
500+ websites powered by Chorus and Clay publishing technology
Jim Bankoff: Chairman and CEO of Vox Media. Prior to joining SB Nation, Jim served as a Senior Advisor at Providence Equity Partners. As a 25-year veteran of the online industry, he has developed and led dozens of popular websites on the Internet.
Trei Brundrett: COO of Vox Media. Previously, he was the co-founder of the boutique digital strategy firm Handwire. Currently, he also sits on the board of directors for The Texas Tribune.
History and Evolution
Before the creation of Vox Media, a sports blog network by the name of SB Nation had been established in 2005. The network soon became wildly popular and in 2008, executive Jim Bankoff was hired as an advisor for its growth prospects. He was promoted to CEO in 2009 and was interested in SB Nation’s goals to incorporate other niche-oriented sports blogs. By this time, SB Nation had become the fastest-growing sports network among its peers.
In 2011, Bankoff launched a technology-oriented website within the same network as SB Nation, hoping to capture the same demographic. This was meant to be complementary to SB Nation and was named The Verge. Side by side, Bankoff and Brundrett created Vox Media as the parent company for both SB Nation and The Verge in 2011. Brundrett became Vox Media's Vice President of products and technology, and later Chief Product Officer.
After its creation, Vox Media embarked on a fast-paced journey. It rapidly acquired other networks and launched its own websites in quick succession. By 2014, it had made a name for itself as a general interest news service. In 2019, its new division Vox Media Studios had been created and New York Media was also acquired, which was a hefty addition to its portfolio. Today, Vox Media owns several editorial brands, which primarily include The Verge, Vox, SB Nation, Eater, Polygon, and New York. Vox Media's brands are founded upon its advertising marketplace called Concert and its proprietary content management system called Chorus. It now has offices in San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Austin, and London.
In December 2021, Vox Media announced its plans to acquire and merge with Group Nine Media, based out of New York. The deal was made in exchange for stock in the combined company, instead of cash, and is expected to close in the first few months of 2022.
In August 2015, the $200M equity investment made by NBCUniversal in Vox Media valued the company at more than $1B. Comcast, which owns NBC, additionally already owned 14% of Vox through other subsidiaries.
In January 2018, Vox Media recognised a labor union formed by its editorial staff, called the “Vox Media Union”.
Vox Media has been the subject of multiple lawsuits, twice for labor rights violations. It has also been sued over copyright infringement issues.
In 2020, Vox Media laid off 6% of its workforce, letting go of about 70 employees.
According to the CEO, the December 2021 deal to acquire and merge with Group Nine Media would provide financial resources for Vox Media to invest in its own editorial products, as well as the media websites that makeup Group Nine Media.
An article published in April 2021 highlights that podcasts alone represent a significant sector worthy of investment. Estimates for the US alone predict that 1/5th of all ad dollars will be spent on the sector this year, exceeding $1B for the first time. This is supported by the fact that 38% of marketers are planning to boost podcast spending through 2021.
Publishers like Vox Media are increasingly merging with their biggest rivals. Such a strategy is meant to help these media companies make more money from corporate advertisers and to compete against tech giants such as Facebook and Google.
In a string of media consolidations, Vice Media recently acquired Refinery29 in 2019, Buzzfeed acquired Complex Networks and the Huffpost, Group Nine Media acquired Popsugar in 2019, and now Vox Media and Group Nine Media are merging.
Suggested Next Reads
Vox Looks To Ramp Up Its Audio And Video Revenue in 2021 (Inside Radio, December ‘20)
Scoop: Vox Media Studios targets $100 million in 2021 revenue (Axios, December ‘20)
Vox.com Asks Readers to Contribute to Journalism (Mediapost, September ‘20)
Vox Media aims for $20m-plus podcast business in 2020 (Digiday, January ‘20)
Vox Media has a new pitch for advertisers after buying New York Magazine and affiliated sites (CNBC, December ‘19)