What is strategy? Ask Vox


Innovation may be the buzzword that won’t die, but Vox Media has not forgotten a keyword for success: strategy.

Since its founding in 2011, Vox has made several smart strategic decisions as it has developed and expanded its media presence. Yes, it is an innovative company, but its leaders have developed a keen sense of self to provide a well-defined vision for what they want Vox to be.

At the 2014 International Symposium on Online Journalism, Vox CEO Jim Bankoff put it succinctly in the conference’s opening keynote address:

We believe that brands matter.

Over the years, the company has developed topical sites — such as SBNation, The Verge, and Eater — that focus on their niches with authority and authenticity to build communities around their content. Bankoff noted in his address that Vox Media has concentrated on hiring top talent and developing a content platform that allows its creators to understand and connect with their audiences.

When thinking at the strategic level, you focus on several questions:

  • What is our organization’s long-term vision?
  • What are we good at?
  • What is our distinctive spot in the marketplace?
  • Where are our gaps?
  • How do we most effectively use our resources to maximize success?

RecodeIn this context, the purchase of Re/code announced Tuesday night makes complete strategic sense for Vox.

As The Verge’s Niley Patel noted in a column about the acquisition, Re/code is a natural complement to his publication. Over the years, The Verge has widened its focus to tech, entertainment, and science. “But along the way,” Patel wrote, “we made a big decision: The Verge is not a business site.”

Enter Re/code, which brings Walt Mossberg, Kara Swisher, and a Wall Street Journal lineage to Vox’s stable of established brands.

It’s not just about the type of content, however. Re/code has established itself with its industry events that draw big names, big audiences, and big dollars. It’s an area that Vox has yet to develop fully; with this purchase, it gains that expertise from an established brand immediately. In exchange, Re/code gains Vox’s valuable Chorus content-management system to improve the performance of its well-respected content.

It’s as good a strategic fit as you could ask for, one that aligns well with Vox’s long-term strategy of building media communities around brands. The key question will be whether those cultures can merge effectively without too much of a clash.