Vox Media, publishers of the SBNation, Verge and Polygon blogs, is getting down to business with monetizing its content with the launch of Vox Creative, a new division of the company that will act as an in-house service to create marketing and advertising to run alongside its other content services. The announcement was made today on stage by CEO Jim Bankoff at TCDisrupt as he extolled the virtues of “premium content” and moving away from the “race to the bottom” that he believes pervades internet content today. He also said Vox expects to be profitable across the whole of its portfolio this year.
“You see ugly advertising…but we think there is a great market to be cracked in premium, high-quality ads,” he said. The target for Vox is a $250 billion ad industry: Bankoff says that 65% of that spend went to brand building. And in internet that is even higher, with 80% of $25 billion in marketing went to brand building and direct response. “It has to grow and we want to be there to capture it,” he said.
The focus will be around making videos, with an emphasis on high quality design and telling stories, “using the same tools that we use.” The company last year unveiled a new content management system called Chorus to develop its own blog content in an agile way. Vox Creative will be run by Chad Mumm, who had been running Vox Studios and was the video chief for the three sites owned by Vox Media. It’s not clear if his previous role will get replaced or merged with the new role.
The idea with Vox Creative will be to leverage the reputation that Vox is building around sites like Verge and SBNation. Bankoff said that this came out of brand marketers approaching Vox to develop ads; he characterized their pitch as: “We want to communicate to our audience in the same way that Verge communicates with its audience. It has consumer appeal.” As a result of hearing that multiple times, Vox decided to act on it.
He says that Verge and SBNation are already profitable and Polygon is still in a growth stage but will be profitable later this year. The company has been gradually expanding the editorial content that is covered by the three, with Verge, originally viewed as a “tech blog” now also moving into areas like science and what editor-in-chief Joshua Topolsky describes as the “culture of now.” In addition to ads, the company also plans to move into new verticals, Bankoff said today, but didn’t specify what they would be.
He says the move is to make advertising as compelling and engaging as the content on the Vox platform already. “It’s a disservice to the industry and it’s hurting us as consumers and publishing as an investment,” he said of bad advertising.
He was also quick to note that although this is about leveraging Vox’s reputation in content and design, that doesn’t mean that this will be advertorial. “We don’t believe in sponsored posts. We have a very strong wall. We look at the context,” he insisted.
The move is the latest step for a company trying to shake up old and new media, including AOL, against which it competes, with some $23.5 million in VC funding to do it. “Our investors look at us and ask if we can disrupt media in the same way that others are disrupting healthcare and other industries,” Bankoff said.
A video of how Vox Creative will look is below.
And here’s Jim Bankoff’s interview with Eric Eldon.