Jim Bankoff: Vox Media can grow "really damn big"

By James Robinson , written on February 14, 2014

From The News Desk

Vox Media’s series D funding round late last year valued the company at around $200 million, which isn’t up there with the $315 million AOL paid for the Huffington Post in 2011 but not too shabby either.

But both figures pale in comparison to the grand plan Vox chairman and CEO Jim Bankoff has in mind. Chatting on stage with Sarah Lacy at the Pando Monthly event in New York last night, Bankoff said it’s time for media companies to think beyond the big exit and seek to become the media giants of a new media paradigm.

“I think it can be really damn big,” Bankoff said referring to Vox. “We’re optimistic.”

Bankoff hypothesizes that from radio, to the newspaper, broadcast media and cable, each generation has had a different set of big media brands than the one preceding it, where old media giants weren’t so much supplanted as supplemented. Despite the Huffington Post sale to AOL, or Turner Media buying the Bleacher Report for $175 million in 2012, he said online media has yet to create a force of Conde Naste-esque proportion. Old media companies remain the more dominant market forces, even if that power has shifted.

“There haven’t been big companies created yet,” he said. Huffington Post was successful and a healthy financial exit, as was Bleacher. “That’s capitalism. That’s great. I don’t think the opportunity has been captured yet.”

He sees two hurdles holding online media companies back: growth stalls and companies lose their nerve and sell, or organizations suffer from a general lack of courage to push through.

“We’re hopeful that we can push it further,” Bankoff said. “We know that someone will and we hope that it’s us. Why not? Why not us?”

Vox Media is looking to combine quality with scale, he added. Consumers have changed their habits, but the opportunity for media to capitalize is as huge as ever.

“We’re going through a sometimes painful transition,” Bankoff said. “People are losing jobs, companies are going under and being sold or going under. This is a restructuring of an entire industry.”

The Vox CEO argued it is time for a new set of brands to come out of that transition to speak to a new generation of consumers, matching their new terms rather than trying to get them to conform to old realities.

“Their terms are digital terms. Their terms are 'don’t mess with me' terms.”

[Photo by Hallie Bateman]