Vox Media, home of The Verge, SB Nation and Polygon, made its name catering to niches like tech, sports and gaming. But now it wants to show it can do general news.
Vox.com officially launched Sunday night, three months after parent company Vox Media snagged high-profile Washington Post journalist Ezra Klein to run the site. Sponsored by GE and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at launch, Vox.com marks the latest step for Vox Media as it aspires to establish itself as digital heir to Time Inc.
"General news is an obvious category for a media company to cover," said Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff. "It's a big category and something people care about and is established. And there's a lot of audience there. There are big pockets of audiences and advertisers who may have heard of Vox Media previously, and some have heard of us now."
Originally a collection of sports blogs running on SB Nation, Vox Media rebranded in 2011 with the launch of tech news site The Verge. A year later the company introduced a video-gaming site Polygon, and in 2013 acquired the Curbed network of sites to add real estate, food and shopping properties to its portfolio. Those six sites totaled 26.8 million U.S. unique visitors across desktop and mobile web in February, according to comScore.
Vox.com marks Vox Media's seventh brand, but the first it has built since 2012.
Rather than go dark for months then emerge with a full-fledged site -- like Nate Silver did ahead of FiveThirtyEight's launch last month under ESPN -- Vox Media's product team and the Vox.com staff has taken an experimental approach to rolling out the site.
"This is a very phased launch," said Mr. Klein, who co-founded the site with his former Washington Post colleague Melissa Bell and former Slate writer Matthew Yglesias.
Mr. Klein officially joined Vox Media on February 3. On March 9, Vox.com went up with a video and faux Q&A introducing itself as "a general interest news site for the 21st century." It carried the tagline, "Understand the News." Over the following month, the Vox.com team -- which now numbers more than 20 people -- got its feet wet by posting video interviews with transcripts.
Video will be an important content format for Vox.com. "This next phase is, I think, the beginning of the 'explain the news' phase, which is our core mission and we'll have products rolling out that speak to that," Mr. Klein said.