Washington-based Vox Media is adding the well-respected but financially pressed technology news site Re/code to its growing portfolio of new media properties, the two companies said Tuesday.
Vox, which is led by former AOL executive Jim Bankoff, has been raising venture capital recently to fund an aggressive acquisition spree. Over the last two years, the company has purchased a number of niche sites to create an online publishing empire that covers sports, news, gaming, technology in a way that would be attractive to millennial readers.
Neither company disclosed the terms, but The New York Times, which was first to report the news, said the acquisition was an all-stock deal. Vox is privately held, but Bankoff has made no secret of his plans to take the company public.
Re/code is highly respected within technology circles for regularly breaking news out of Silicon Valley's top companies. But the site has struggled to win the kind of attention readers give to more established publications. Since its start, Re/code never broke 2.5 million monthly unique visitors, data from traffic-monitoring site Quantcast show.
Vox's own tech site, called The Verge, draws nearly 12 million readers, according to comScore, although in a press release from Vox, the company said The Verge has an audience of over 25 million.
Re/code, whose top investors included NBCUniversal News Group and media executive Terry Semel’s Windsor Media, was launched during a wave of new media start-ups focused on name-plate news personalities. Statistical star writer Nate Silver in 2013 defected from the New York Times to start FiveThirtyEight, a data-based news site owned by ESPN. Vox Media itself launched a blogging news site called Vox.com with online commentator Ezra Klein, who founded Wonkblog at the Washington Post.
"This is the next big step in our mission to bring you quality tech journalism, because our work will now be amplified and enhanced by Vox Media’s deep and broad skill set," Swisher and Mossberg's note to Re/code readers said.
Mossberg, Re/code's co-executive editor, declined to comment further.
Though Re/code has struggled to attract readers, it has long counted much of its money through must-attend industry conferences and tech events, which have boasted Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Apple chief executive Tim Cook as speakers.
Events have become a key revenue stream for online media outlets starved for ad bucks and increasingly competing with not just news rivals, but Facebook, Google and a generation of other digital distractions.
The Re/code purchase would give Vox and its partner blogs a launchpad for hosting events tied not just to tech, but to fashion, food, sports and the other interests it covers.
Re/code’s “renowned tech and business conference division will continue to grow,” Vox Media spokesperson Fay Sliger told the Post. She added that “Vox Media will explore ways to apply Re/code’s leadership in this space to its other media brands over time.”
The change marks an intriguing step for tech media, as Mossberg and Swisher, two of the industry's most renowned digital veterans with roots in legacy media, find themselves working alongside a sprawling blog ring that launched, in the case of sports blog SB Nation, as a chaotic network of amateur fans.
The news was announced ahead of Re/code's Code conference, which starts Tuesday night near Los Angeles.
Vox Media now runs seven media brands, including sports site SB Nation, gaming blog Polygon, dining site Eater, fashion blog Racked and its namesake news blog.
Re/code would seem to budge into the territory of The Verge, and Mossberg and Swisher noted the two “occasionally overlap.” But Swisher and Mossberg said that they plan continue to publish at Re/Code's existing Web site and focus mainly on tech business news and analysts, while Vox said the Verge would continue to emphasize tech culture and lifestyle. The two sites’ review teams, however, will merge, with Mossberg writing for the Verge, wrote Nilay Patel, the Verge’s editor-in-chief.
Re/code will also join Vox’s publishing platform, a combination that Swisher said “will give us access to the new tools and talent we need and want to make Re/code stronger and better.”