April 27, 2016
Vox Media, parent company of politics site Vox, sports sites SB Nation, and technology site The Verge, is about to launch Circuit Breaker, a blog about gadgets. Circuit Breaker will publish news and gossip about technology products and primarily live as a Facebook page, not a separate website, says The Verge’s editor Nilay Patel. The idea of a blog devoted to gadgets is a throwback to sites like Engadget and Gizmodo that, in the early 2000s, focused on smartphones and then broadened to become culture sites.
The New York Times reports that Circuit Breaker will “steer clear of covering the business of tech,” which will continue to be covered by The Verge and Re/code, the latter which Vox Media acquired last year. Some articles and reviews from The Verge, says NYT, where Re/code co-founder Walt Mossberg publishes a column, will appear in Circuit Breaker.
Circuit Breaker’s beat will be “physical products that have yet to mature, or might never,” such as virtual reality headsets, drones, home automation, hoverboards and “offbeat projects.” “Circuit Breaker’s stated mission is an acknowledgment of just how powerful the smartphone has become, including for publications,” says NYT, pointing out that people spend “huge amounts of time” on devices and their programs and social media apps.
Vox Media chief executive Jim Bankoff reports that the company began “building media brands on websites, because that’s where we thought the growth was, and we were right about that.” Next, he said, people began focusing on apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube.
“We invest based on where we see potential,” he adds. With a demographic of people interested in gadgets, Circuit Breaker is a ripe target for advertisers, or what Bankoff calls “a high-demand category.”
By emphasizing Circuit Breaker’s Facebook presence, Vox Media isn’t the first (or last) media company to “tailor a publication to a social platform.” NYT notes that Vox, with 19 other publishers, runs a Snapchat channel. “BuzzFeed has invested in Facebook-centric brands, and countless news sites have dabbled with Instagram accounts and YouTube channels.”
One caveat, says NYT, is that “major tech companies, which operate at a different scale than most publications, make for intimidating — and unpredictable — negotiators.” Circuit Breaker’s Facebook page will also broadcast live video, says Patel, and use Facebook’s Instant Articles.
Readers will connect with Circuit Breaker “primarily through their Facebook news feeds,” explain the editors. “We’re going to be playing the News Feed game like everyone else,” said The Verge’s head of social media distribution Helen Havlak, who will work on the new site. “From a distribution perspective, we’re probably going to be changing, like, every 48 hours.”
How Vox Media’s New Gadget Blog Circuit Breaker Will Earn Revenue, Adweek, 4/25/16