“The Verge is a window to how we live now and how we live next,” said an editor in a site’s promotional video. Parented by Vox Media, The Verge is a technology news website whose co-founder and former editor-in-chief Joshua Topolsky envisioned to be home to the next-generation tech writers. In his own words, he pointed to writing about more than just cool, futuristic gadgets. He favored the type of writing that explores how consumers use and live with those gadgets, and how they affect lives, creating new cultures. That’s exactly what the above quote symbolizes.
I believe this initial vision is a critically important understanding of the content vertical that makes this three-year-old technology website emerge as one of most authoritative and influential voice in the technology news industry, despite fierce competitions and crowded market space.
Content vertical is a crucial concept for any websites’ success at this point of the noisy internet. It’s all about niche content that serve a particular community of dedicated, like-minded audience members. The Verge has so far accomplished that concept very fancily, crafting a young and affluent audience base of educated, trend-setting technology enthusiasts at almost 24 million unique visitors every month. Their readers, predominantly male influencers aged between 18 and 34, are generally considered as highly valuable for advertising, which is the site’s primary source of revenue.
The Verge and its parent company Vox Media go the extra miles and to great lengths in building a sophisticated advertising platform. In addition to their powerful and beautiful, in-house content management system Chorus, they form a group of talented people known as Vox Creative. These people are described as skilled “designers, directors, storytellers, and creative coders whose mission is to help clients build custom advertising experiences that are as appealing, engaging, and powerful as the editorial content on the sites.”
In my opinion, they are on a journey to make advertising content as loveable as editorial content, and they seem to pull it off as reflected through their existing projects with major brands such as General Electric, Ford, Canon, McDonald and Samsung. I would also argue that brands love The Verge because its content vertical is very pleasantly friendly – centering around innovation, development and modern lifestyles – and its audience is mainly populated by heavy spenders and trendsetters.
In-house technologies and talents have been the core determinants making The Verge’s journalism as well as advertising exceptionally well-implemented. In fact, Vox Media’s CEO Jim Bankoff praises the beauty of the marriage between tools and talents in a control-free environment, saying “If you take really smart people, build them the best tools and set them free to create, the results will be incredible.” I totally buy this argument. After all, they are not publicly traded companies, so they have a unique opportunity to slowly build an ecosystem around their products, making sure the user experience is tightly controlled and questionable at best for audience members and advertisers. Probably, it is logical to think of The Verge as Apple of the digital publishing industry.
It is also worth analyzing the online journalism implementation at The Verge as it is particularly built for the internet. It’s digital-first, or more of a digital-only nature. First of all, the website is responsive – although there is a dedicated mobile app for both iOS and Android – which means it can be accessed and viewed effectively on either mobile or desktop. The design is graphic-intensive with clean, friendly typography and it just works beautifully on any platforms. One of the many reasons why I spend a lot of time on The Verge, as a graphic and web designer, is getting design inspirations.
Second, The Verge understands and executes media convergence well in both creating and publishing content. As media platforms – old and new – suddenly converge due to digitalization and the internet, content (video, audio, photo and text) flow seamlessly from one platform to another. The Verge takes full advantage of this scenario in producing and publishing their content. Their presence extends beyond the website to social media, podcast and live streaming. Sources are social media content, and links from other websites. What this means is they manage to produce in-depth content, publish on many platforms and reach out to new audience members very effectively, and ultimately generate more influence and profits.
Third and my favorite is their smart strategy to focus on video and podcast when they started. They obviously understood the internet. Although, they seem to reduce their effort in these two areas at this point, it was video and podcast that built the brand to this level of immense recognition and influence.
With numerous film-grade video shows, The Verge establishes its brand as innovative, exciting, high-tech and cool. Also, video works so well in today’s content consumption habits of the internet users who have short attention span and look at their phones once every five minutes. I used to see at least one new video every day on the site, but it’s almost one every week on average now. This is not a smart move. However, a video-related effort is seen on YouTube as The Verge began to collaborate with popular tech YouTubers. I can definitely see how The Verge can attract new technology audience members through these collaborations.
Podcast brings so many things to the table. Founding members of The Verge are former editors of Engadget who disagreed with Engadget’s parent company AOL’s new content directions to align editorial content in favor of advertising. These people have a huge community following them, so what podcast did in the early stage of The Verge was providing a platform for these editors to communicate their plans when trying to create a new website and bring the community with them. While The Verge was still being developed, the founding editors kept their weekly podcast alive under a temporary name “This Is My Next”. Other benefits of podcast are in-depth journalism, transparency and most importantly relationship building between the brand and the audience.
What should be a concern for The Verge at the moment is keeping talents and especially the departure of core founding editors such as Pual Miller and Joshua Topolsky. The people who built the brand are important. They are the brand.
In overall, I have high regards for The Verge. It’s one of the very few websites that I log onto via homepage several times every day. I love their design, writing, video, and podcast. I like to think of The Verge as the future of content business on the internet.
As an international student of media and journalism in the US, I would be extremely happy if I get the chance to intern at The Verge for a Summer.