- Changes to Facebook's News Feed threaten the traffic and revenue of many digital publications.
- Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff explained at Code Media why his publications will still thrive.
Headlines about the digital media business are grim.
Facebook's changes to its News Feed threaten publishers' traffic and revenue. BuzzFeed and Vice both reportedly missed their revenue targets last year. And last year Mashable sold for just $50 million, a fraction of its onetime valuation.
But Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff says that company is bucking the trend, with traffic to Vox Media brands up 20 percent this past January compared with the prior year. At the Code Media conference in Huntington Beach, California, he discussed on Tuesday how his portfolio of digital brands — such as Curbed, Eater and SB Nation — are better equipped to navigate the quickly changing landscape. His strategy: "Offering marketers a one-stop shopping for display media" across platforms, without relying too much on Facebook.
Bankoff said Vox Media will benefit from Facebook's push away from "fake news and fake views" and towards quality content and interactions. "I think those of us who use Facebook know that they had been favoring these low- or empty-calorie videos where it was a lot of eye candy."
"The goal was to get you to stop ... and watch a video, and you'd see content companies bragging about 'we've got a million views,' but it was all inflated, it really wasn't adding value to the Facebook experience," said Bankoff.
"I don't blame [Facebook] for tapering down that stuff. When [Facebook executive] Campbell Brown appeared on our stage [Monday] at Recode and Code Media she talked about how Facebook is going to value quality news. We produce quality news so we think we'll be okay."
While Bankoff believes Vox Media will be okay with Facebook's new algorithms, he said he has always taken a multiplatform approach. In addition to Facebook, Bankoff works with Google as well as Apple news and more recently has struck a partnership with Netflix for the Vox brand and PBS for the Eater brand.
"You'll probably see us producing less content that is hosted on Facebook just on spec because Campbell is right — its unreliable monetization and promotion. But it's a very big audience that has shown that they love the work we produce, so we're going to continue to work with Facebook, make sure our stuff is surfaced well," he said.
In light of the criticism Facebook and YouTube have faced in the past year over issues of "brand safety," Vox Media is working to partner with other companies to give advertisers both quality content and reach.
"Even our scale is not enough, so we've partnered with NBC, Brit + co, Flipboard, a lot of other great companies. And we are coming together where we can provide quality and scale, predominantly in video and mobile," he said.
"Obviously there are huge dollars going to Facebook and Google, but there are other alternatives where you can get quality and scale and performance."
Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal is an investor in Recode's parent Vox Media. Recode and NBC have a content-sharing arrangement.