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WATCH: 5 Key Takeaways from CEO Jim Bankoff’s SXSW talk with Soledad O’Brien

Bankoff and O’Brien spoke at SXSW 2019 on the future of the industries they’re shaping


At 2019’s annual SXSW festival in Austin, Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff, in an official Featured Session with journalist Soledad O’Brien, discussed the future of media and entertainment.

Bankoff broke the news that Vox Media will launch a premium members’ offering later this year, and he left the stage on an optimistic note: “As an audience member, it’s never been a better time and we’re so privileged and so proud to serve those curious audiences every day. That’s a reason to be optimistic about the future of media.”

Below are five key takeaways from Bankoff’s discussion on the future of media and why he remains optimistic.

Five Key Takeaways from Bankoff On-Stage at SXSW

1. Look through the shouting of the day, quality is what wins.

A big part of what we do across all of our brands is service journalism.” Bankoff said. “There is so much coming at us on social media, on cable, and beyond, that we need to back up and use this medium for what can be done well, which is provide context to topics.

This approach rings true across Vox Media. We do it in video, we do it in text, and we notably do it in podcasts. What it all has in common is helping to provide context at a time when it’s surely needed: to look through the rhetoric and the shouting and go deeper into the things that matter most in people’s lives.

2. Even in tumultuous times, continue to invest in what matters.

I think with it being a time of change, some entities tend to retreat as opposed to advance,” Bankoff said. “They tend to become more close-minded in the stories that they tell, and they tend to try to save money rather than invest it — and I understand those impulses.

This retreat can often lead to things being masked as journalism that are not really journalism, particularly in an age where social platforms reward outrage. There might be a contest in journalistic entities to provoke, or get the social media hit, or get a ratings bump because of the cycle that we live in. Storytelling has to be premium quality, we can’t just chase clicks.

3. Podcasts are a distraction-free medium with high growth potential.

Podcasts provide an intimate connection where distraction is voided out by the fact that you literally have someone talking into your ear.” Bankoff said.

Podcast advertising is still a relatively small market that is growing considerably fast. The Vox Media Podcast Network, like all of Vox Media, offers brands marketers know they can trust in brand-safe environments.

4. Empower creators with the best technologies that let them do great work.

“The biggest problem facing journalism today is the health and success of local news.” Bankoff said. “We want to do our part to help local journalism. Chorus, our content technology platform, and our monetization platform, Concert, can be part of the solution.”

Vox Media’s legacy as an outstanding technology company enables us to help support other media organizations that are going through the current transition. By making the technology products we had to build for our own business available to others, we able creators to do what they do best, and to focus on journalism. Concert helps monetize their premium advertising inventory better, and Chorus provides them the technology to manage their newsrooms, create content and distribute that content using data in a consumer-friendly way.

5. There is plenty to be optimistic about in media’s future.

“For us, it always starts with the story and with the work and then we build.” Bankoff said. “I am optimistic, but I’m also realistic. The optimism is about the work — which has never been better – but it’s not just about the work, it’s being realistic about the business models that support the work.”

There has never been a better time as a consumer of media to have choice, to have options, to consume in ways that fit your lifestyle and ability to have access. In all of media there is disruption and change – there isn’t a media company in the world that isn’t feeling the pressure to change. But as we change, we are not beholden to the old way of doing things. As a modern media company, Vox Media can focus on the future. We can focus on what modern audiences need and want, and that’s what we’re committed to doing.