As of Tuesday, SB Nation no longer stands alone. The sports site, which has grown from a federation of sports blogs to a prominent network and sports hub, will joined by The Verge, a personal tech site from Joshua Topolsky and the team that once pumped energy into Engadget. It’s the first new vertical for the company that started as Sports Blogs Inc., and to mark the transition, will now be known as Vox Media.
Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and Tyler Bleszinski cofounded the company. SB Nation has expanded aggressively organically and through acquisitions under Jim Bankoff, who started as an advisor and became CEO in January 2009 when it had roughly 1 million uniques. Internal figures from *Google* Analytics peg it at more than 25 million monthly uniques now.
It has had plenty of fuel, raising nearly $24 million from investors including Accel Partners, Khosla Ventures and Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) Interactive Partners. As important, Vox Media has invested in developing technology that is used to power the sites and their journalism; that’s one of the aspects that drew Topolsky, who can wax rhapsodic about the various elements. The company also provides a common sales platform. Vox Media has nearly 90 employees.
Bankoff plans to use both to expand beyond sports and tech but he isn’t ready to talk details. In a pre-launch interview, he said, “Our mission to empower talented web voices. Tomorrow we’re all focused on making sure The Verge gets off to a strong start. We definitely will be pursuing other verticals with the same mindset.”
In the case of SB Nation and The Verge, that would be young, tech savvy affluent males. The Verge launches with BMW, Sony (NYSE: SNE) and Samsung as sponsors. Marty Moe, an AOL (NYSE: AOL) vet like Bankoff, is publisher and gets founder credit with Topolsky. The about section on the new site sets an interesting tone when it comes to the way the company and the verticals are set up: “The Verge is a technology-focused news publication founded in 2011 by Joshua Topolsky and Marty Moe in partnership with Vox Media and its CEO Jim Bankoff.” Moe is also chief content officer of Vox Media.
The Verge, which went
due to go live overnight, is the first big test of what Vox Media can do outside sports. Bankoff is banking on Topolsky and a team of nearly 30 full and part-time staffers to create a full-blown 24/7 personal tech site from scratch without having to incubate the expertise. To take advantage of the post-announcement momentum and build an audience, the team has been operating a blog called This Is My Next, which already has drawn 3 million uniques and more than 10 million pageviews.
Asked what would make The Verge different from all the other tech sites, Topolsky quickly replied, “The quality of the content — authoritative, trustworthy, great content. Not just ther quality but the breadth.” That includes in-depth reviews and longer-form magazine-style articles a la Wired. Other features include a products database integrated with the news, comparison tools, and an emphasis on community. The latter shouldn’t be confused with creating a site on user gen content, “This is not crowdsourced content. It’s curated editorial content we’re paying top dollar for,” Topolsky stressed. He compares the site to an app that will get constant iteration.