SB Nation breaks out of the Vox with a broad media strategy





SB Nation, with 25 million in monthly visitors and $24 million in venture backing, took its eye off the ball today. Whether that strategy works remains to be seen.

Today, SB Nation re-branded itself Vox Media.

Poaching Engadget

Edgy and entrepreneurial: Vox Media topper Jim Bankoff

Although it will continue to produce sports social media content under the popular SB Nation brand, Vox Media will use the SB Nation publishing platform to produce content in other verticals.

The first category for expansion is consumer technology, which it is tackling through a brand called The Verge.

At least nine members of The Verge’s editorial staff, including editor-in-chief Joshua Topolsky and managing editor Nilay Patel, come from Engadget, according to a BtoB Online report.

Engadget is a technology website acquired by AOL in its deal to purchase Huffington Post for $315 million. The Verge launched today.

Vox Chairman and CEO Jim Bankoff — SB Nation’s entrepreneurial, edgy leader who first started working as a consultant two years ago and eventual rose to become CEO — made the Vox Media announcement:

“Vox will aggressively pursue a clear mission of empowering the most talented web-native voices and their passionate audiences,” Bankoff said. “We are calling our company Vox because its essence is a collection of strong voices: our talented experts, our communities and our employees. It’s our role to support and enable those voices and our marketing partners with an exceptional product platform. We believe it’s the combination of talent and technology that will define success in premium digital publishing.”

Stage set for Bleacher Report showdown

This is a risky move on SB Nation’s part.

Its prime competitor, Bleacher Report, Inc. continues to focus exclusively on sports, and has $40.5  million to do battle.

Both Bleacher Report and SB Nation rely on the contributions of bloggers to provide a rich sports content experience, where you can find edgy analysis of professional sports franchises and college sports teams, but also updates on the high school athlete down the street.

Fundamentally a sports guy: Bleacher Report CEO Brian Grey

While Vox Media attempts to create a broad media company by leveraging its work flow and publishing platforms to other verticals, Bleacher Report under CEO Brian Grey continues to concentrate exclusively on the sports experience. (Grey is fundamentally a sports guy, having worked at Fox Sports Interactive and Yahoo! Sports.)

In fact, Bleacher Report is spending some of its venture capital millions bringing aboard sportswriting professionals. In August, Bleacher Report added former and writer Dan Levy, New Era Scouting’s Matt Miller, “The Solid Verbal” college football expert Dan Rubenstein, NFL blogger Josh Zerkle and NBA expert Bethlehem Shoals as top writers, according to a Sports Business Daily report.

In other words, Bleacher Report is betting much of its future on sportswriters who can break news or air it out with that Red Smith flair. By branching beyond SB Nation into the The Verge and other brands, Vox Media is banking on the ability to sell integrated marketing campaigns to sponsors.

Here’s what Bankoff said in a Nieman Journalism Lab report:

 “On the web, people have access to products and consumers can go from one site to the next,” Bankoff said. “It’s not like the newspaper world or magazine world where you choose one or the other exclusively.”

Leveraging technology for competitive advantage

SB Nation and The Verge will have shared sales forces that can sell sponsors into both sports and consumer electronics verticals, but Vox Media is also banking on the efficiency of a common publishing platform to make its corporate strategy sing. All large-scale publishers like Vox Media have the same problem, which is to manage the workflow involved with vast amounts of content, and publishing that content to website on an on-going basis without messing up site functionality.

Typically, large-scale Internet publishers create an internal system where incoming content is served and checked out by an editor, who reviews the content for clarity and appropriateness. They might write headlines, tune the content to conform with Google Panda 2.0 update, and add pictures or other graphic elements.The content is then passed to a publishing system, which takes into account an individual website’s cascading style sheets and custom code. The publishing system forces the person publishing the item to put the content in the right place, and prohibits errors that could cause revenue-generating elements from coming crashing down.

Since SB Nation is such a broad content offering, it was necessary for Vox Media to build these types workflow and publishing systems in order to sustain the site. With its publishing platform in place, Vox Media found an opportunity to leverage that information technology to The Verge and beyond.

The race to build a network

Sports media upstarts may be looking for the next Howard Cosell to fuel YouTube content partnerships

Regardless of corporate strategy, one thing is certain: Vox Media and Bleacher Report are each in the race to reach beyond the written word.

On Oct. 28, Bleacher Report and SBNation were among 100 companies to land plum content provider deals with Google Inc., which is spending greater than $100 million to get original video content to flow through YouTube, according to a  report from Business Insider, Inc. 

For the average sports fan looking to build their reputation in social media, now may be the time to see whether those good ideas you put in your blog posts might be better presented Cosell style.

And, if looking for ideas in your sports content endeavors, consider taking a quick minute listen to a radio broadcast from visionary sportscaster Jim Healy. It just may give you some ideas of what could get you noticed in today’s hyper-competitive social sports media market place:


  1. […] 80-strong company that has raised over $73 million to do battle with ESPN, SB Nation (now part of Vox Media), Bleacher Report, Yahoo! Sports and others for sports fans who want to enhance their viewing […]

Speak Your Mind