Vox, the forefront of technology and journalism?
Ezra Klein is being hailed as the future of technology driven journalism in a Sunday profile in the New York Times by Leslie Kaufman. In the introductory quote, Klein says that while he respects the Washington Post, he was being hampered by its technology. He rolled out the new version of Vox.com on Sunday and talked about the decision with the Times:
Technology has become crucial to every newsroom, of course, but not all technology has been designed equally. News organizations born in the print era have generally knit together disparate systems over the years to produce websites that integrate graphics, social media and reader comments with various degrees of smoothness.
Many all-digital organizations have built their content management systems from the ground up with the Internet in mind. That strategy, many say, produces a more organic melding of journalism and technology.
The result is an increasingly dynamic publishing universe where sites like Vox, Vice and BuzzFeed, and new enterprises like Pierre Omidyar’s The Intercept, are luring seasoned journalists as well as a new generation of storytellers.
In this high-tech universe, Vox Media’s content management system — which even has its own name, Chorus, and is used to publish all the company’s websites — has earned recognition. It is credited with having a toolset that allows journalists to edit and illustrate their copy in dramatic fashion, promote their work on social media, and interact with readers — all seamlessly and intuitively.
What is interesting is that the site isn’t being hailed for its content, but the ability to make managing it easier and more accessible. The BBC reported that venture capitalists are:
The financial future of the news business is uncertain, but lately US venture capitalists have been placing their bets on journalism.
Over the past year, venture capitalists contributed at least $300m (£180m) to digital news organisations, many of them start-ups, according to a recent report from the Pew Research Center.
“It’s a great time to build new brands in the media landscape,” says Eric Hippeau, managing director at Lerer Ventures, a venture capital fund that has invested in scores of digital start-ups, including Policymic, a news site geared towards millennials – people born between 1980 and 2000.
Mr Hippeau believes the youngest generation of news consumers are an appealing target audience.
“Young people do not really care about the old brands for the most part. They are attracted by brands that cater to and are building content that are specifically for what they like,” he says.
That sounds like good news for Vox. The Times story reported they’re trying to create a pool of reporters who are constantly updating pages, much like Wikipedia:
To help accomplish this, the developers have been building a tool they call the card stack. The cards, trimmed in brilliant canary yellow, contain definitions of essential terms that a reader can turn to if they require more context. For example, a story updating the battle over the Affordable Care Act might include cards explaining the term “insurance exchange.”
Ms. Bell said Vox.com would start with roughly 20 reporters with expertise around specific topics, a limited travel budget, and, of course, very inchoate technology.
Ms. Bell confessed that she was both “excited and terrified” to go out with a product that has had just three months to gestate. “I worry people will say, ‘Hey, you guys promised us magic,’ ” she said, “and I’ll say, ‘Hey, wait a minute. Give us some time and we will get there.’
Columbia Journalism Review also touched on the topic of journalism and technology this week:
Cultivating many small audiences of superfans in different subject areas isn’t exactly a new business model. Many old-school trade magazines share a single publisher. And digital powerhouses like Gawker segment their audience and appeal to advertisers with a portfolio of sites, each with a distinct, narrow focus. But with companies tracking individual users’ every click across the internet, advertisers can increasingly target users over sites. Rather than buy a large banner ad atop Jalopnik, Gawker Media’s car blog, the company can just serve its ad to a subset of car-interested people no matter where they browse. (If you’ve become annoyed when a product you clicked on once while online shopping shows up in ads on every other site you visit, you’ve experienced this phenomenon firsthand.) This sort of highly targeted ad usually involves a middleman, and therefore results in less revenue for the publication serving it. Soon the niches will have to be even niche-ier, the superfans even more devoted, to convince an advertiser to buy directly from a publication.
Digital trends point to the biggest media companies getting even bigger, with everyone else staying relatively small. Despite the explosion of blogs and media startups, the top 7 percent of news websites still attract 80 percent of all traffic, according to Nielsen. Most sites will never be big enough to appeal to advertisers on the basis of unique visitors alone, but they can embrace their size by making a play to keep the readers they do have engaged and coming back. But systematic thinking about how to do that has fallen by the wayside as even the little guys pursue viral hits—and the immediate Chartbeat spike that comes with them—to meet monthly traffic goals. According to Chartbeat, visitors from social are the least likely to return to a site in the future.
What if some of the effort spent writing the perfect tweet or shareable headline was focused instead on trying to deepen the relationship with existing repeat visitors?
It’s a good question. And according to CJR, Vox will have a lot of work to do to attract eyes. But if the model of deeper engagement is one that works, then there will be many following their example. And if not, then Klein will have a lot of questions to answer.