Vox Media is a powerful digital media company that was last valued at $US380 million. Currently the online publisher — which hosts popular sites like The Verge and Vox.com — brings in more than 170 million uniques every month. It’s slowly amassing an impressive list of both popular editorial destinations and well-known writers.
But what brings in these talented heavy hitters isn’t the social caché of working for Vox. Nor is it the chance to be part of a potential new media empire.
Instead, according a new profile of Vox’s CEO Jim Bankoff in The Penn Gazette, it’s the technological backbone of the company that brings in its amazing talent: Vox’s content management system.
A content management system (CMS) is the software that publishes content onto a website. Many sites use services like WordPress and Tumblr as their publishing tool. Most CMS’s have web apps with text boxes to transform written material into cohesive and multifaceted web content.
CMS’s are a popular gripe among people working in digital media. Oftentimes they’re glitchy or the content looks bad. Sometimes sites that use the same CMS offer similar-looking work. In short, it’s hard to find a CMS that is both easy to use and produces palatable material.
Vox, however, uses its own proprietary CMS called Chorus. It acquired this technology when Bankoff took the reins of the sports website SB Nation in 2008. SB Nation built Chorus before Bankoff joined. According to this profile, Bankoff was interested in SB Nation not because of the sports material it produced but because of the amazing CMS it had.
So Bankoff began working at SB Nation and then launched his own media company using this Chorus software. And this is what helped Vox get off the ground.
Chorus was leagues ahead of similar programs like Word Press that competing media companies were using. It created vivid, beautiful content and could accommodate a range of projects. So Bankoff grabbed it to launch a website about technology, The Verge, and then used it as bait to get existing digital brands under his roof.
Chorus was so powerful, in fact, that it brought in some of the best writers to Vox’s team. Ezra Klein — who worked at the Washington Post — and Lockhart Steele — who hailed as Gawker’s managing editor — were both taken by the beauty and ease of Chorus. They now both have high-level editorial roles at Vox.
Felix Salmon, a media pundit for Fusion, tells The Penn Gazette that Vox’s CMS was “f—ing amazing.”
“‘Jim said, ‘I have this amazing CMS. Go play with it and create something awesome!'” Salmon said of Vox’s recruiting tactic. “All of those people — Lockhart Steele, Ezra Klein — they are like, ‘Oh, Chorus, shiny, exciting, we can do amazing things with it!'”
The Penn Gazette article also notes that other factors played into bringing in this talent, including culture and editorial freedom.
But, even so, Chorus may be the only software that made traditionally non-techie writers foam at the mouth.