Why The Verge?
The Verge is the perfect example of successful content expansion. The Verge is a technology news site and it was founded by SB Nation which was a sports blogging network. Most business pundits would say that it’ll be a tough task for a sports-based publisher to succeed in a tech-based niche, The Verge Proved it to be wrong. It won 5 Webby Awards just after a year of its launch.
Additionally, the editorial team of The Verge came out from Engadget which was one of the biggest technology news sites of the time. When The Verge started, Engadget was attracting traffic in millions of page views. It was also backed by the mighty AOL (now Verizon Media) which had HuffPost and TechCrunch in its portfolio too. And now, The Verge stands tall with more than 70 million pageviews (Src) versus Engadget’s 66 million pageviews (Src).
Now as the skyrocketing growth of The Verge is evident, it is worth knowing how it reached where it is today. Let’s dig deeper.
How it all started?
The story of The Verge started long before its birth in 2011. It starts with AOL and Engadget.
Jim Bankoff, the current CEO of Vox Media, started his career with AOL in the mid-1990s. By the year 2002, he became the EVP for Programming and Products. His focus was on the digital content business and he wanted to shift the company over to a more ad-driven model. This was the time when AOL was an Internet Service Provider company whose major source of revenue was coming from dial subscriptions.
Still, Bankoff kept working towards his vision. In 2005, he acquired Weblogs Inc, which was the parent company of Engadget and dozens of other popular sites. He also started TMZ and FanHouse, both of them were successful ventures. Engadget also started ruling the roost of gadget sites.
But as the leadership changed, Bankoff started feeling that he was unable to pursue his vision. Hence, he left AOL in 2007. By 2008 he became an angel investor and a consultant for a small company called SB Nation. By the end of the year, SB Nation raised $5M in its first round of funding and Bankoff took the lead as a CEO in early 2009. His vision of building a media empire was back on track.
Meanwhile, in AOL, the editorial team of Engadget was also upset with “The AOL Way” of growing the company. The TechCrunch CEO was escalating the situation further. Ultimately, the Editor-in-Chief of Engadget, Mr. Joshua Topolsky along with some of his top editors and writers, left AOL. In his blog post, he confirmed that he is leaving AOL to join the SB Nation team to build a technology news site. Ultimately, The Verge was born.
The Verge attracted 4M active users in the first month, who cumulatively generated 20 million page views with a team of 30 (Src).
Where are they today?
The Verge has attained massive success across all platforms. On social media, it has 2.6M followers on Twitter, 3.5M fans on Facebook, 1.4M followers on Instagram. On YouTube, The Verge has gained close to 3M subscribers with its reviews and informational content.
30% of its 50M visitors come directly to the website, it speaks a lot about its brand value. The organic visits account for 60%, making ‘search’ as its biggest source of traffic (Src). With almost 100 employees working for it, The Verge is estimated to make $25M in annual revenue (Src).
Becoming The Verge
Building the Foundation
This Is My Next blog before The Verge was launched
Holding the audience
The team of editors that left Engadget to form The Verge already had a fan following in the tech world. Its editors also used to host the Engadget Podcast. Since the audience was already there, leaving it in a void was not a great idea. But The Verge was yet to be launched. So the team started a blog and a podcast in the interim. It was called This Is My Next. The podcast was hosted on the same blog.
By August 2011, the blog was garnering 1M unique visitors and 3.4M page views(Src). By October the visits reached 3M and pageviews reached 10M (Src). The Time Magazine enlisted This Is My Next among the best blogs in 2011 (Src). The popularity of the blog acted as a propellant for sending The Verge in an upward trajectory even before it was launched.
But how did they make it possible in such a small period? Well, the former Editor in Chief of The Verge Mr. Topolsky, gives all the credit to the power of social media. In an interview with Say Magazine’s summer 2012 edition, he said, “Our only promotion engine for This is my next when we left was just all tweeting. And it worked. We were as surprised as anybody.”
The loyal readers of the top journalists from Engadget, the huge pool of tech enthusiasts on social media, and great quality content worked together to create this magic.
Later in November, when The Verge was started with nearly 30 full time and part-time employees (src), the traffic coming to This Is My Next was redirected to the new site. In this way, The verge created its audience even before its existence.
Currently, This Is My Next sits as a ‘buying guide’ section at The Verge site.
The Verge before its launch
The Verge started with 4M active users and 20 million page views in the first month (Src). The traffic had huge potential for monetization. The Verge team understood it and hence monetized the site right away with display ads.