Vox Media Names First COO as Focus Turns to Video, Native Ads

  • Trei Brundrett led team that built web publishing platform
  • Owner of the Verge, Recode has beefed up management, board

Vox Media Inc., operator of the Verge and Recode news sites, named its first chief operating officer, promoting a longtime employee to oversee the company’s expansion into video and so-called native advertising.

Trei Brundrett, 39, who has worked at Vox since 2006, led the designers and engineers who built the company’s online publishing platform, called Chorus. He will report to Chief Executive Officer Jim Bankoff, the company said in a statement. Brundrett will be succeeded by Joe Alicata, who led development of the company’s advertising technology, products and data.

Trei Brundrett

Source: Vox Media

Vox has grown into a “very large and complex operation” with more than 800 employees, according to Bankoff, and needed an executive to oversee its two priorities this year: expanding its online video audience and developing more native advertising -- videos and articles for marketers that resemble editorial content. Last April, Vox appointed its first chief financial officer and named former Yahoo! Inc. President Susan Decker to its board.

Having been at Vox since its infancy, Brundrett “is in a unique position to do that,” Bankoff said. “Across the industry, he’s built a reputation as an innovator and leader.”

Online publishers are trying to capture a bigger piece of a digital ad market that’s increasingly dominated by Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. Many publishers have shifted their focus from text to video to command higher ad rates and because Facebook has been promoting video in its news feeds. More people now watch Vox’s videos than read its articles, Bankoff said.

Ad Agencies

Web publishers are also becoming in-house ad agencies, creating commercials for brands and promising they’ll reach big audiences on their websites and social media. While marketers have shifted some spending to Google and Facebook, where ads are cheaper and more targeted, some advertisers worry they’re paying for ads that are falsely activated by so-called bots, or seen for just a few seconds.

Vox has been telling advertisers that it can make ads that people actually see. Video views exceeded 2.5 billion last year.

The company was founded 14 years ago as SB Nation before adopting its current name in 2011. Vox publishes eight news and lifestyle websites, including Vox.com, SB Nation and Polygon. In 2015, the company received a $200 million investment from Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal and has started jointly selling online and TV advertising with NBC.

That brought the total fundraising to about $300 million and the company’s valuation to around $1 billion, a person with knowledge of the matter said at the time.

Vox is also expanding internationally and producing its first television show, an A+E Networks program about prefabricated homes called “Prefabulous.” While Vox continues to grow, Bankoff said he has no immediate plans to sell the company or go public.

“We’re growing really quickly. We’re growing our audience and revenue,” Bankoff said, without disclosing the number. “The most important thing is we keep our heads down. If we execute well, we’ll have options and we’ll assess them as they come up.”

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