December 5, 2014

Vox Media wants to distance itself from the rest of new media

Jim Bankoff, CEO of Vox Media, publishers of The Verge and Vox.com, among other things, at Code/Media:

“There are companies that have been built on lists,” Bankoff said of the slate of new publishers that have cropped up in the last few years, without naming a specific site. “When you’re a company that’s all lists, or all slideshows, or all quizzes, then that’s a problem because you’re trying to game something.”

There’s certainly some truth to that, however it’s also a type of content that a lot of people seem to enjoy. While I want to believe that the listicle’s days are numbered, I seriously doubt it, since it’s basically just a take on an old format anyway. All these things are, so it would be more relevant to say that the titles used on sites today, the You Won’t Believe What Happened Next nonsense, is trying to game something.

A lot of content on the web today, from these new media brands such as The Verge, Mashable, BuzzFeed, and so forth, are lacking when compared to quality magazines. However, that comparison is bit off, they’re not trying to recreate the magazine, just the status of publishing one. The sometimes bland pieces published on Bankoff’s own Vox.com is part trying to produce something that fits the product they’re building, and part dumbed down by necessity because the readers don’t want mammoth analysis pieces during the lunch hour web browsing session. While I do think that Vox Media is doing something worth watching, and I’m certainly keeping an eye on some of their sites, I think Bankoff’s words are not only a simplification of the new media landscape, but also a mantra to give credit to, and distance their own properties from, the type of content that’s perceived as low valued. Probably a clever move, but given the past six months of Vox.com and The Verge, I think perhaps Bankoff & Co. would be better off tightening their own ship before throwing poorly concealed potshots at others.

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