Vox Media shifts from scale to focus
Yesterday The Verge made a major change to its tech reviews. A new section of the site, branded Verge Guidebook, will create a central hub for all tech review-associated content. “Reviews have always been at the red-hot center of what we do here, and after our redesign last November, we wanted to make sure that everything we have been (and will be!) doing with tech reviews is easier to find,” Dieter Bohn writes in the introductory post.
Readers don’t care when reviews were published; they want to know whether or not they should buy the gadget sitting in their Amazon cart. The Wirecutter recognized this, organized a site around it and sold to the New York Times for more than $30 million. It makes sense that another prominent tech site with a massive library of reviews is following suit.
Inside the overarching hub of the Guidebook, The Verge is adding new sections to its site. Each comes with its own navigation tab on the main website and branding, positioning them somewhere between independent verticals and subsets of normal coverage. The additions reflect changes over at Polygon, another Vox Media site, which introduced three esports sites last month.
In both cases, publications took a specific area of their editorial focus and built a home for it. Continuing the practice of Curbed’s city-specific sites or SB Nation’s dozens of team-focused sports blogs, Vox Media is building out new brands for itself off of existing content. It’s the opposite of the general scale play. There are only so many people who follow esports, and even fewer who care enough to regularly read news about them. Those readers won’t reach the critical mass needed for profitable digital advertising, but they are more invested and engaged than a general audience.
Vox Media — and many other digital publishers — are starting to see the value in owning a niche. It’ll be a while before any of these new efforts pay off (or get shut down), but the hope is that focusing on serving one high-value audience well will be a more viable business strategy than trying to be everything to everyone. It’s also an area where publishers stand a fighting chance against Facebook and Google. Scale is tech’s obsession, but journalism excels at expertise.