Vox Media, a publisher with a fast-growing portfolio of online lifestyle and news brands, will announce Monday that it has just closed a $46.5 million round of financing from General Atlantic, a New York investment firm. The investment values the company at $380 million, according to a person with knowledge of the deal, and it comes at a time when digital-media companies are suddenly of interest to venture-capital firms.
In August, BuzzFeed, the news and entertainment site, raised $50 million in new financing, a number that valued the company at roughly $850 million. To put that in perspective, when Jeff Bezos of Amazon bought The Washington Post in 2013, he paid $250 million.
Anton Levy, head of General Atlantic’s Internet and technology team, said his firm — like other investors — had typically avoided content creators like Vox in favor of platforms with many capabilities like Facebook and Alibaba. Lately, he said, the firm has had a change of heart.
“We think we are at an inflection point,” he said. “For the next five years, you are going to have the next generation of media platforms emerge. There are parallels to cable in the ’80s. There is going to be a huge amount of value creation.”
The chief executive of Vox Media, Jim Bankoff, has made no secret of his ambition to build his company into a kind of Time Inc. of the 21st century; that is, a multipublication giant with reach into young, affluent homes across the country on topics as diverse as sports and real estate.
The 4-year-old company has been adding publications to its portfolio in the last 12 months, including, of course, Vox.com, the news site introduced with Ezra Klein in April. By itself, Vox.com grew to 10.9 million visitors in October, according to comScore. (Vox says its internal Google analytics show traffic of over 22 million, which would make it among the fastest growing sites of the year.)
In addition, Vox’s combined seven online publications — which include The Verge (technology), SBNation (sports) and Eater (food) — doubled their online traffic in 2014 to draw about 150 million unique visitors a month, according to Vox’s own internal Google analytics. By that standard, they collectively outperform better-known brands like BBC, Vice Media, The Washington Post, Bloomberg and Atlantic Media.
Bankoff says he will use the money to raise the profile of his brands and to improve the company’s custom-content abilities for advertisers.
Custom content, or native advertising, has become a major way for publishers to charge premium prices. To lead this expansion, Vox announced that it had recruited Lindsay Nelson as the head of VoxCreative, its internal agency. Nelson founded Slate Custom, the internal branded content creative agency of Slate magazine.
The company will also be investing heavily in video, looking to expand its audience through partnerships with popular YouTube personalities. For example, Marques Brownlee, a technology reviewer known for his YouTube Channel MKBHD, will be featured in a video series on The Verge, the company recently announced.