I visit Daring Fireball, Stratechery, Chorus.fm, and Polygon religiously. I support MacStories, Washed Up Emo, and Relay FM. Their content doesn’t always land for me and I’ve become increasingly less wild about their design. So why do I keep coming back? In a nutshell, it’s the relationship I have with their creators.
I have a background in the podcast industry. What drew me to it was not the business potential or the medium itself, but the intimacy of the format. I was able to develop a pseudo relationship with the voices at the other end. Only ever consuming podcasts in moments solace while commuting or on a jog, the intimacy intensified. I formed such a bond with the voices on the podcasts I listened to that I wanted to support them. In my mind there was no better way than to join the industry.
The same could be said for my want to join the ranks of the news industry — namely the gaming news industry. In 2013, I’d come across Polygon.com — namely their PS4 and Xbox One reviews. I fell in love with their design and the rich content they were producing. It was a stark contrast from my then favorite gaming site IGN.com. Less clutter. Sharper design. Higher quality writing and videos. I became so engaged with the site that I began deep diving into their creators. Allegra Frank, Ben Kuchera, Tracey Lien, Griffin and Justin McElroy, Ashley Oh, Chris Plante, Dave Tach — the list went on.
I began listening to Polygon’s Besties podcast, hosted by Russ Frushtick, Griffin and Justin McElroy, and Chris Plante. Hearing them speak at length, episode after episode, helped me build an intimate, albeit one-sided, relationship with these folks.
And the cherry on top: their custom “Polygon-ified” avatars used on both Polygon.com and Twitter. This made the staff feel like a unit; a family. Many voices that made up a larger whole. Their credit was not mired or obscured as a monolithic publication — one reason I cancelled my subscription to The Economist. Much of their team — and Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff — still use the avatars today.
Needless to say, I connect to outlets not for the outlet’s sake, but for the creators I enjoy. Mediums such as podcasts and Twitter bring the personality out of the individuals; and on occasion, the latter allows for actual interaction with these them.
Realizing Polygon was (then) one-third of the greater Vox Media, I took to learning about the creators of the other verticals. And as Vox Media grew, so did their rosters.
Over the weekend, after seeing a tweet and retweet by Vox Media COO Trei Brundrett and CEO Jim Bankoff respectively, I listened to Vox Media publisher Melissa Bell on CNN’s Reliable Sources Podcast with Brian Stelter:
Audiences love our work and they care deeply about our creators. Often times we see them asking our creators, “do have a Pateeon account? Is there a way we can donate money to continue to contribute to your sites? Can we participate in the journalism in some way?”
We want to explore those options for sure. We want to make sure we’re building a business that supports our creators. We’ll be looking at every business model as we grow.
I certainly don’t know how much of this is true while not working within the walls of the company, but it’s certainly something I’ve felt as an audience member and fan.
Since reading Polygon in 2013, I’ve been a fan and critic of Vox Media. They’ve made great technological choices, and some questionable ad and social integrations. But more than anything, they put a focus on their talent. Their creators aren’t just a byline — assuming those stick around. They are featured in their text, audio, and video. Their engaging — and often times incredibly long — features are showcased on other Vox Media verticals. And talent from one outlet will appear on another’s podcast.
I have asked several Vox Media staff if I can somehow, someway contribute — donate through their sites or via Patreon; hell, publish print and take a margin. I want these creators to succeed! And I want the platform that gives them such a voice to be bolstered. I haven’t seen anything concrete yet, but I did buy Polygon’s 500 Years Later: An Oral History of Final Fantasy VII by Matt Leone as soon as it went up for pre-order.
I feel I have a connection and loyalty to Vox Media’s creators first, their sites second; much like I do for independents John Gruber (Daring Fireball), Ben Thompson (Stratechery), Jason Tate (Chorus.fm), Tom Mullen (Washed Up Emo), and others. It’s the talent that always brings me back. And I’ll continue to do everything in my power to support the creators.