Editor’s note: There are lots of new stories to read from the newest issue of our sister publication Nieman Reports. But Nieman Lab readers might be particularly interested in this conversation with Melissa Bell, vice president of growth and analytics at Vox Media and co-founder of Vox.com, when she visited the Nieman Foundation back in December.
On learning from Walt Disney
The benefit of building a brand that audiences recognize will, in the end, allow us to continue to build a strong revenue model and a strong connection to an audience. If they see us on Snapchat and Snapchat has a very large audience, then they get to know and trust Vox and see it as a source that they care about. If 10 percent of that audience finds us on YouTube, five percent finds us on Facebook, and two percent finds us on Twitter, that’s great. There’s a revenue opportunity with Snapchat, and we can use that to support the journalism that we’re doing elsewhere. You have to think about your brand as an interconnected ethos that should exist in multiple places.
Walt Disney had an interesting idea about how his brands supported each other. The theme parks came from the movies; the movies came from his animations. The merchandise allowed for stores to be built. Some of the rides have become movies. Movies have influenced the rides. They all rely on each other. I think about that when I’m thinking about our newsroom.
On improving the ad experience
I think ad blocking is a symptom of the larger disease of advertising in the digital space. In the past, we, as a media industry and as an online advertising industry, did a huge disservice to users by not creating a better advertising experience online.
We didn’t try to innovate. This comes up with the constant conversation around banner ads. The banner ad existed for 20 years with the only real iterations being, “How do we make it more annoying” not “How do we make it better.” You got pop-outs and you got noise and takeovers and all of these things. That did a real disservice to us.
Photograph of Melissa Bell by Jonathan Seitz.