Publisher, Vox Media
Melissa Bell is Publisher of Vox Media and a co-founder of the Vox news website. Before that, she was Director of Platforms at The Washington Post.
We are taking a diversified approach to our business model and I think that every organization no matter how big or small needs to think about that diverse approach. We make a large percentage of our money off different advertising models, so we have three or four different types of advertising that fill in that bucket. Everything from this incredible growth that we’ve seen across our podcasts over the last year — I think we’ve grown like 300 percent over the last year from the podcast base — to we’ve built out a really strong programmatic advertising technology called Concert that we’ve partnered with other organizations and that’s allowed us to really create a targeted solution for major ad campaigns. We work in sort of editorial sponsorships and in the branded content space as well so sort of high-touch, high-end advertising campaigns. We have an in-house ad agency. So that’s one bucket that has about four or five different approaches within that. We also have a new business line that we started about three years ago where we’re starting to develop licensing off our IP so it’s what we call our Vox Media Studio Business and that’s developing podcasts internally or externally with partners taking some of our really talented video work and developing shows around that. So we now have six television shows in production. ... We also licensed our technology platform called Chorus, which is a publishing platform and we built a staff business around that. … We just launched our first membership program with our Vox video YouTube team, which is very fun.
One of the things that I know I don’t get right all the time is that I’m not hearing from the people who are coming up with the next crazy idea because we sit far apart from each other, they’re hard at work on their day-to-day and so I try to think about opportunities for us to try to come together and share ideas across different groups and make sure that those conversations are happening pretty regularly so the company can invest in those ideas and they don’t get lost sort of in the system.
I think one thing that I see often times is that a lot of organizations feel that they have to own every solution, either they're spending a ton of money on their own CMS (content management system) or they are hiring people to do very specific tasks, and I think there are a lot of free tools and capabilities out there on the web that sometimes I think organizations don't necessarily take that step to do a more low-fi version of something and then spend their money and energy on the thing that sets them apart from everyone else.
I think that the biggest danger or tendency that we have in our industry is to look for simple solutions, like everyone should do podcasts or everyone should pivot to memberships or everyone should do X, Y or Z. And I don’t think that there’s any single answer. I think that it’s always a mixture of what’s the best opportunity for the audience that you’re trying to target with the capabilities that you currently have.