That lofty valuation is clearly a future projection: Vox Media brought in some $50m in 2014, according to a Washington Post calculation. That’s half what that other VC-backed digital publisher, BuzzFeed, claimed to have pulled in that year.
But if you’re looking for doubters, don’t look among the ad-buying community, which sees in Vox truly premium content, reach with millennials and a state-of-the-art publishing platform. “The modern-day Condé Nast,” said Gian LaVecchia, managing partner, digital content strategy at MEC.
That’s particularly impressive considering how early Vox is in building a sales infrastructure. For all the talk of automation, sales remains a long slog, powered by deep relationships and a fleet of sales people. Vox, which has 450 employees, counts just 75 sales people among them. (That’s in line with two other digital publishers, The Huffington Post and Business Insider, which have about 75 and 63 salespeople, respectively.)
“They’re still gaining traction for some of their brands and continue to grow but have built a modern-day publishing business with unique voices, perspective and modes of distribution which set them apart from many other legacy competitors,” said Adam Shlachter, chief investment officer at Digitas LBi.
Buyers say what Vox lacks in scale, it makes up for in its ability to reach the Gen Y audience that advertisers are so desperate to sell to, through its editorial voice and proprietary publishing technology, Chorus, that makes for a smooth reading experience. Its approach has helped Vox make video ads for Nike, Applebee’s and Samsung, among others.
“While they don’t offer the scale the big boys do, they do offer this connection with the millennial segment,” LaVecchia said. “So it’s a different proposition — it’s not a display buy, but it’d be about buying into their custom content. It’s not always about reach but their authenticity, expertise.”
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