When you’ve got yourself a company that publishes a group of websites under different brand names, the question arises: how much cross-promotion between what are often quite disparate editorial properties is appropriate? Or, to put another way, how much is too much SYNERGY?
Back in the day at Curbed, we probably erred on the side of too little synergy. Our thinking was that folks who love food may not love fashion or real estate, and vice-versa, and it’s annoying to have content you don’t want shoved down your throat. (Our one exception to this: neighborhood content, though we never did nail a good user experience for seeing all Curbed/Eater/Racked stories about the West Village, say. That’s a problem I’d still like to crack.) This decision meant that every time we sat down with potential investors, they had at least one Big Idea to offer us: that surely we could boost traffic by more indiscriminately surfacing content from one brand on another brand! It’s astounding in retrospect that we never raised a big round.
At Vox Media, we’ve now got seven independent verticals, with six more on the way (joke). And in terms of topic area, they’re even more diverse than the three Curbed verticals were. And yet! Synergy beckons. So we spun up a #synergy Slack room, and problem solved (joke). No but we really did spin up a #synergy Slack room, with the idea that editors at one vertical that think they have a story that might work on another vertical can share it there in a take-it-or-leave-it fashion. Chorus makes it really easy to publish from one vertical to another, so it’s why you may now occasionally see an SB Nation-branded story on the homepage of The Verge, or vice-versa. This sounds super-simple, but at a company where each brand operates truly independently, it counts at least as a minor breakthrough.
So that’s a start. Then today showed that editorial synergy can be had in more meaningful ways. Team Racked came up with the genius concept to send four Vox Media bros from SB Nation, Polygon, The Verge, and Eater, to New York City Fashion Week shows. The results were hilarious. And The Verge’s best-in-the-business Apple liveblog — which hit previously uncharted territory in terms of concurrent traffic to the site — spawned items at Racked (that scarf) and Polygon (why bigger iPhone screens will make games harder to play). Vox, meanwhile, covered the Apple news in the style its audience has come to expect. Watching all this play out effectively in realtime made today a very exciting one at Vox Media.
#Synergy, people. It’s what’s for breakfast. And lunch, depending on the restaurant. I’ll get back to you on dinner.