Pierre Omidyar’s and Glenn Greenwald’s vision:
Salmon is struck by Omidyar’s ambition:
[H]e wants to build a global news organization with multiple brands, deep pockets, fearless journalists, top-notch support services, and even its own technology company. You can see how he could get to $250 million pretty quickly, at that rate. That’s a lot of cash — but it’s still less than a single year’s journalism budget for Bloomberg, Reuters, or the BBC. Omidyar needs to make his money go a long way: he’s building not only an international virtual newsroom (with real physical newsrooms in more than one city) but also an elaborate technology, sales, and even legal infrastructure.
What does it mean to explain the world on the Web? One thing Internet journalists are never short of is commentary—many of them, such as Klein and Matthew Yglesias, who will leave Slate to join the new project, have been specializing in it since they were fledgling bloggers. (Klein has also written for The New Yorker.) What the Web has never figured out is how to pay for reporting, which, with the collapse of print newspapers, is in desperately short supply, and without which even the most prolific commenters will someday run out of things to say. Klein says that the new site is going to be in the “informing-our-audience business,” which describes everything from the Times to Fox Sports to blogging (which is what Klein and his colleagues have made their names doing). Perhaps Klein isn’t ready to say clearly; perhaps he doesn’t yet know exactly what he and his colleagues will be doing at Vox.
Vox CEO Jim Bankoff provides some details. On the eight-figure investment request:
[Q] Ezra reportedly sought $10 million plus from The Post for a new venture; is Vox committing that amount to this?
[A] We are not disclosing our investment, but suffice it to say these rumored amounts are way off and way high. Moreover, Vox already has many of the core pieces in place, including a leading proprietary modern media platform, Chorus, as well as a full set of creative brand advertising products, killer sales, technology, design, business teams, etc. So Ezra and team will be already starting with a very strong infrastructure.
[Q] Is the built-in infrastructure, etc the main reason why the “eight figure investment” figure is way high?
[A] Well, as I said, I never heard of an eight figure investment being contemplated to begin with (beyond unsourced rumors that are way off), but our existing infrastructure does contribute to making this initiative stronger and more cost efficient …
Mercifully, Vox’s “creative brand advertising” doesn’t include sponsored content:
Bankoff told Ad Age that he has no intention of “tricking anyone” with alternative forms of advertising such as sponsored content or “native” ads — which other new-media growth stories such as BuzzFeed have said they believe are a key part of the future of content. Instead, the Vox CEO said he is counting on Vox’s ability to produce better-quality display ads that will bring in more revenue than the standard banner or site takeover. As he described it:
“We really are in the process of reinventing what brand advertising can be on the web… we believe it can be engaging and beautiful and well integrated [and] fully transparent — we’re not trying to trick anyone like some native ads do… we can create high quality media products at large scale, and we can create high value brand advertising at scale as well.”
Last but not least, Nate Silver updates us on his progress and describes the website he’s building:
In contrast to the previous version of the site, which mainly focused on electoral politics, the new FiveThirtyEight will provide coverage of five major subjects: politics, economics, sports, science, and lifestyle. By design, almost any topic in the news can potentially fit into one or more of these categories. Our idea is that the site’s mission will be defined by how we cover the news rather than what we cover.
How will we cover the news? The new version of FiveThirtyEight will seek to apply the concept of data journalism on a wider scale.
What is data journalism? In one sense, data journalism can refer to the application of statistics and other quantitative methods toward issues in the news. Plenty of us are “stat geeks” at FiveThirtyEight. However, our methods will also include data visualization; the development of interactive graphics and features; and investigative and explanatory reporting, especially as applied to publicly-available data sets.
We’re aware that our strengths as a journalistic organization provide more value in some fields than others. For instance, statistical analysis is more likely to be useful when applied to a gubernatorial election in South Carolina than to a civil war in Syria. We have immense respect for news-gathering journalists and for original reporting.