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Leaning into video

A note from Vox Media Publisher Melissa Bell

Before Labor Day, Publisher Melissa Bell sent a letter to Vox Media about the company’s approach to video. We're pleased to share a version of the letter here.

Let’s get this out of the way up front: there will be no pivot to video at this company. We are very much in video. The Verge launched with video in 2011. Polygon launched with a 13-episode video documentary in 2012. The first piece of content Vox ever launched on its website was a video, and today, Vox is nominated for four Emmys. Ariel Helwani broadcast MMA Live from Vegas last week. Johnny Harris just got back from Morocco for Vox Borders. The Verge continues to build new video channels around their most engaged audiences with Circuit Breaker and Verge Science. Racked has more than doubled their Facebook followers this year, in large part due to their video work. One of the most-watched videos on Eater last month was shot by Eater Austin city editor Nadia Chaudhury on her iPhone.

And, now, Polygon, Vox, Curbed and Racked will launch four new shows on Facebook’s new Watch tab.

These latest launches underscore that Vox Media is leaning hard into something that is working.

We are ambitious, we want to be where our audiences are, and we believe quality journalism can exist in multiple mediums – including social streams. We aim to be the company that goes deeper on Facebook and on YouTube and on emerging video platforms like Apple, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, just as we do in podcasts, in newsletters, on our websites, and in person.

Experiments such as Watch on Facebook give us an incredible learning opportunity to test if a new type of video viewing can exist on the platform. Facebook, as The Verge’s Casey Newton wrote, “has 2 billion people with their eyes glued to its app, and lately those people have demonstrated a healthy appetite for consuming video.”

As a robust and dynamic media company, we have to leverage our talent and our expertise across all formats. We do not believe video comes at the cost of our journalism or people with non-video skillsets. Writing is a crucial component of what we want to offer our audiences – as is photography, video, sound, graphics, and illustrations. To do this work, we need different skills across the board – writers and researchers and reporters and visual journalists and video producers and audio producers (not to mention legal help and equipment managers and talent bookers) – all are necessary to our mix. Great videos don’t emerge from the ether, or from a desire to make more money from higher advertising rates. Great videos emerge out of great journalism, a great creative culture, and deep collaboration with creators of many different kinds.

Matt Yglesias wrote this best after one-too-many pivot-to-video articles:

“Video, done well, is an unbelievably powerful medium and a potent tool for journalism. But that takes great people and a great team. We had @voxdotcom videos before we had a website, so didn't ‘pivot’ to it and never saw it as oppositional to reporting. It's integral. Their work is incredible, and every time I've had a chance to collaborate with them on a piece it strengthens my work & broadens its reach. tl;dr video is great when it's good and our videos are the best because we built the best team not because we laid off all our writers.”

Of course, this isn’t easy, and we don’t have it all figured out: we have work to do both in meeting the audience demand around video, and in experimenting with stronger monetization in a volatile market environment. We have to be clear-eyed about the challenges, and the opportunities ahead of us. And we should all be energized by the challenge. Vox Media is a media company built by creators who intimately understood how to write for the internet before anyone else, how to build a better approach to advertising than anyone else, and how to think about technological solutions for the web better than anyone else. We led a decade-long, dramatic cultural shift towards the web. Now, we get a chance to lead the next decade-long shift, and we are better positioned than anyone else in the industry to do it.

And we’ll do it the same way we always have: by empowering all of our creators, by collaborating instead of competing in our newsrooms, by serving our audiences with a product that goes deep on topics people care about.