We might have all the explanation we need for why Vox failed:
I’d like to leave you with some thoughts that Ezra shared with our team today:
If I thought Vox were weak, or fragile, or in crisis, or it needed me, I wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t even consider it. But one of the beautiful things of the past few years is seeing how much less needed I am, how many projects grow beautifully without me. And I know where our business is, and I know how many revenue lines we have, and how well we’ve weathered this year’s storm. This is a time of transition — out of the Trump era, out of the Covid recession, and into the next era of Vox.
I want to leave you with the three things that I’ve really learned, and that I hope you hold as you build the next version of this place, as you make the next seven years as ambitious and extraordinary as its first seven.
First, we’re not just about formats or information. Vox is built on values. It’s a moral place, in terms of what we cover, how we cover it, and how we behave as we cover it. We are at our best when we are curious and generous and kind and open-minded and humane and committed to a better world.
We should model our values, not just state them. At our best, we do. When I watch Dylan Matthews and the Future Perfect team, or listen to Sean Rameswaram and the Today, Explained team, or watch what Claire Gordon and the Explained team create, I always think: That’s who I want us to be. That’s who I want to be. Don’t lose that. Don’t assume it’ll always be there. Don’t leave values to be implicit or assumed. Our values are as important as anything else we do, and more important than most of it.
Second, I know we do a lot of different kinds of things here, but we are the only outlet anywhere built for explanatory journalism. As a founder and as the first editor-in-chief, when I look back on the decisions I’ve made, the products I’ve helped build, the ones I’m proudest of are the ones where we drove harder into that kind of work, where we really lived out our promise, where we owned our mission of explanation.
And the decisions I regret are when I let us stray too far from that to get traffic or to chase an apparent opportunity. Vox’s essential quality is that we do essential explanatory work in a way no one else does, across a range of topics and platforms and products no one else can match. That’s when we win. Whatever else we do, I hope we keep building and winning at that core competency.
And finally, something I underestimated when we built this place is that even with everything we did to be distinctive, even with the clarity of our mission and the buy-in of our staff and the support of this great company, being distinctive, doing our own thing, setting our own agenda of what’s important and pursuing our own ideas of how journalism should look is devilishly hard. The pressure to conform, to do what everyone else is doing and cover what everyone else is covering and sound like everyone else is sounding, is overwhelming.
Vox is worth building because it is something different, so try, to the extent you can, to keep making it something more and more different, because in this era when everything is becoming more the same, the returns to offering something distinctive are only going up.