After weeks of speculation about what his next venture would be, former Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein revealed on Sunday night that he is working on a new project in partnership with Vox Media, the fast-growing online media entity behind sites like SB Nation and The Verge. But Klein said the new entity will be more than just a transplanted version of his Wonkblog — instead, he plans to build what he describes as a new kind of online media platform that goes beyond just driving traffic via breaking news briefs.
In an interview with BuzzFeed (which correctly predicted weeks ago that Klein might be talking to Vox), the former Wonkblog writer said the new entity isn’t going to focus solely on politics the way his former blog did, but will be a full-fledged news outlet that covers everything from politics to sports. Klein said it will be “a completely different product” from Wonkblog, and will cover “as many issue areas as our revenue model will openly support.”
Klein didn’t provide any details on revenue models (Vox recently raised a $40-million funding round) but said the new site will focus on helping to add context to the news headlines by continuously updating backgrounders on major topics, something that sounds very similar to the “StoryStream” approach that SB Nation takes with its stories, which gives readers a look at all the posts it has written on a certain topic. In a blog post at The Verge, Klein said:
“The overriding focus on the new made sense when the dominant technology was newsprint: limited space forces hard choices. The web has no such limits. There’s space to tell people both what happened today and what happened that led to today. But the software newsrooms have adopted in the digital age has too often reinforced a workflow built around the old medium… we’ve carried the constraints of an old technology over to a new one.”
A job posting for the new project — where Klein will be joined by Dylan Matthews, Melissa Bell and former Slate blogger Matt Yglesias — said that the new site will have regular coverage of issues such as tax policy, but “instead of letting that reporting gather dust in an archive, we’ll use it to build and continuously update a comprehensive set of explainers of the topics we cover.” The posting described Project X as a combination “news site/encyclopedia.”
According to a number of reports, Klein approached Washington Post management — including publisher Katharine Weymouth and the paper’s owner, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos — with a proposal to launch a standalone site that would cost as much as $10 million and have 35 staff, but his offer was turned down. It’s not clear how much Vox has pledged to the new project.
In an interview with the New York Times, Klein said that the media industry is “at the beginning” of how journalism should be done online. “We really wanted to build something from the ground up that helps people understand the news better.” Klein also said that Vox’s publishing technology — a platform called Chorus — was a big part of the appeal of joining the company.