IMG_1348From a young age, Jim Bankoff, the CEO of Vox Media, knew his calling. In his words, “We’re all kind of nerdy about something, and my “nerd-dom” – my passion – has always been about the media.”

This passion for the media has blossomed from drafting potential television programming grids in the fourth grade to running one of the world’s largest online media networks, which encompasses some of the most well-recognized online brands.

Today, Vox Media operates some of the Internet’s most successful and influential online properties, including: The Verge (Technology and Culture), (News), SB Nation (Sports), Polygon (Gaming), Eater (Food and Nightlife), Racked (Shopping, Beauty and Fashion), Curbed (Real Estate and Home), and Re/code (Tech Business). Combined, these publications are viewed by more than 165 million people a month.

Last week, Mr. Bankoff discussed the rise of Vox Media from humble beginnings to online media powerhouse, and the media trends fueling the company’s fierce growth with the ACG National Capital membership and guests at the chapter’s October Monthly Meeting.

Vox Media has been in existence since 2003, approximately five years before Mr. Bankoff joined its ranks. The company began simply, as a blog created by journalist, Tyler Bleszinski, dedicated to covering the Oakland Athletics and to filling the void in coverage caused by the team’s second-fiddle status in its own media market, and the perceived “east coast bias” many sports fans lament in the national sports media.

When asked about the company’s origin, Mr. Bankoff said, “To be honest, it was the hobby of a former journalist…[whose] publication became the leading media outlet for the Oakland A’s. By the time I had met him, other journalists – approximately 20 sports bloggers covering specific sports and teams – had come together and were growing and covering their beats in a really interesting way.”

These early sports blogs would provide the model that drives Vox Media today – identify a coverage area with a passionate, dedicated following and empower talented storytellers with advanced technologies to engage them. In Mr. Bankoff’s words, “The ethos that founded that company still remains with us. The formula is, find someone that really understands not only their subject matter – whether it’s the Oakland A’s, healthcare policy, gadgets or dining out – but that also knows how to tell a story and communicate with their audience, and then use the Internet and other digital storytelling devices to accomplish that.”

To diversify its editorial coverage and list of publications, the company has employed a growth strategy centered on targeted acquisitions. Vox Media has acquired approximately seven different online publications since its inception to help bulk out its portfolio of media properties. Of the seven acquisitions that Vox Media has executed, Mr. Bankoff only considers two to be large acquisitions financially – Curbed and Re/Code. According to Mr. Bankoff, “Those were sizeable in relation to us. Each were about 50 people or so. The other acquisitions that we did were relatively small.”

Despite the impressive number of acquisitions, Mr. Bankoff claims that the company doesn’t grow its revenue through acquisition, simply its talent pool and publication portfolio. “I don’t think of Vox Media as an acquisitive company, although the number of acquisitions we’ve done indicate otherwise,” Mr. Bankoff said. “We haven’t relied on acquisition for revenue growth. It’s been more about talent – the opportunity to add talent on the editorial or technology side. We operate in a competitive talent marketplace, and we want to be sure we invest in the best.”

IMG_1355Comprised of a sizeable stable of respected online media properties, Mr. Bankoff foresees continued success and growth for Vox Media. The company’s ability to appeal to a younger demographic of viewers and engage viewers via the medium that most appeal to them – whether they be social channels, mobile video or written articles – enables it to attract both new eyeballs and advertisers to its sites. This is a trend that Mr. Bankoff expects to increase as more households become “cord cutters” and move away from getting their information, news and other content through traditional forms of media.

This potential for growth and the need to reach viewers in new mediums also attracted NBC Universal to Vox Media. The entertainment giant recently made a $200 million strategic investment into Vox Media that the New York Times reports, “[creates] a partnership between the new and old media companies to collaborate on programming, advertising and technology,” and that establishes the value of Vox Media at approximately $1 Billion.

Overall, Vox Media is an incredible testament to the disruptive power of new technologies on an established industry. Vox’s aggressive and strategic acquisition strategy and its dedication to engaging audiences where they are is making it a major player in the entertainment and media industries, and promises to make the company a major success even as the industry continues to shift and evolve.

Be sure to join ACG National Capital for its next exciting event, the November Monthly Meeting, which will feature Peggy Styer, Chief Executive of Raytheon Blackbird Technologies and a panel comprised of key members of her management team. Additional information and registration is available HERE.