April 7 is a glorious day in history: it marks the first Voxiversary. While it hasn't yet attained the status of Christmas or Passover or Easter or July 4 or Thanksgiving or even April Fools' Day, it is a very important day for us at Vox, and we hope it wins a place in your heart alongside Franksgiving and other novelty celebrations.
What is Voxiversary?
Voxiversary commemorates the first full day of publishing internet content on Vox.com. We released some videos before that (this interview with the great Elizabeth Kolbert, for example), and we were discussing health-care news with readers on our Facebook page even earlier than that, so there's a case to be made that the true anniversary was at some point in February or March. But decisions have to be made, and there's something special about the launch of a full-time website.
So April 7 it is. In some ways, that launch day and the week of sheer terror that preceded it seems like a lifetime ago. In other respects, it feels like it was just yesterday.
Is anyone reading Vox?
To our great relief, yes! Please see above chart as reference. We have enjoyed a heartening growth in the size of our audience on our site. We also have gained 250,000 followers on Facebook, 225,000 on Twitter, and 85,000 on Youtube. (Thank you for visiting!)
We're also thankful with how often you contribute to Q&As on our site, send us tips via email, or even — as with the case of one special reader from New Hampshire (hi, Jill!) — visit the office.
But what about videos? Isn't video the future?
Maybe! In truth, we are not sure what the future holds. But video is a powerful means of communication, and we are committed to it. More than 1 million hours worth of Vox video content have been watched on YouTube and on our site, including a staggering 19 million views of our video on what life looks like through an MRI machine.
Last but by no means least, we changed the cat video game:
Enough about traffic — how about editorial achievements?
In our first year, Vox published more than 8,000 articles, almost 240 features, 115 card stacks, and over 130 videos.
Along the way, we interviewed the president and touched off a silly scandal. Julia Belluz forced Canada's largest newspaper to admit it got a vaccine story all wrong. The genius behind the TV show Lost walked us through the series' key episodes, and the genius behind The Sopranos gave us insight into his creative process. We're in the awkward position of having two different reporters nominated for the same award. And there were so many maps. (Seriously, a lot of maps.)
But the work we're proudest of, day to day, is our efforts to explain what's going on in the world around us. Over the course of the year, we explained lots of things. From the Hong Kong protests to the Trans-Pacific Partnership to the Common Core to Hinge to Serena Williams's struggles with racial and gender bias. We explained how the Grammys work and how nuclear negotiations with Iran work. It's been a lot of explaining!
Don't you ever get sick of this explainer shtick?
Never. We are committed to explaining the news in a thorough and consistent way. That's our mission. It's how we judge our success or failure. If we're not building a resource of reliable, discoverable, rich explanations of the key stories in the news, then there's no amount of traffic that can make us a success.
We don't always do a perfect job of living up to our mission, but explanation and explainers (not the same thing, by the way) are at the core of our identity, and we will never get sick of them. Instead, we're hopefully going to get better at them.
Many of the improvements we want to make in year two relate to various aspects of the explain-the-news mission. Our card stacks haven't been as discoverable or shareable as we want them to be — that will change, and soon. We're unifying the editing process behind longer explainers so they display a more consistent approach and voice. We think we can be faster off the mark with good explainers, and we need to make them much, much easier for readers to find once they're written. We also want to make it easier for our audience to tell us what they would like to see explained.
What'll be next? A poopsplainer*?
No, we did that already.
Talk about the technology. Is Chorus really made of kittens that shoot rainbows that become unicorns?
No. But we do have an amazing team of talented Product people who are just as much a part of this site's success as any other team member. We believe we're in a confusing, experimental time in journalism. We're just starting to understand the medium, the delivery mechanics, the new ways of reporting and seeking out information, and how to present information to readers.
We cannot do that without close collaboration between people of different skill sets. Writing code is as important as writing an in-depth explainer. Over the past year, we've iterated and built out different parts of our site, experimented with dozens of different story formats, and built almost 30 different tools for our journalists to use.
Are there places Vox fell short in its first year?
Oh god. Yes. So many. It's not just mistakes — though we've made our fair share of those. It's any time we put up an explainer that didn't leave readers with a solid understanding of the issues. It's every time we didn't do enough reporting or research and missed a key fact or powerful insight. It's any time someone came to our homepage looking for a guide to a topic and couldn't find it. It's every time we didn't update a card stack fast enough. There's a lot we did wrong, but there's also a lot we didn't do nearly right enough.
We're proud of so much about Vox's first year, but it's also taught us, again and again, how far we are from being the persistent, usable news resource we eventually want to be. We have a very long way to go before we're going to feel like we're delivering anything even close to the product we promised. And we're so grateful to all of you for forgiving us when we've fallen short, or telling us what we need to do better, or giving us ideas we never would have come up with. We need to do a better job for you, and we will.
Are amazing new people joining Vox for its second year?
I am so glad that you asked, because this is, in fact, happening.
- Javier Zarracina is joining us as our first graphics editor. You may know Javier's work from the LA Times, where he is graphics and data editor, or the Boston Globe, where he was graphics director and part of the Pulitzer Prize–winning team that covered the Boston Marathon bombing. He'll be joining Vox to build out our graphics department into something truly amazing.
- Jon Allen is coming on board as our chief political correspondent. Allen, who's currently Bloomberg's Washington bureau chief, is among the most sourced, tireless, and knowledgeable reporters in Washington. He's going to lead our politics coverage heading into 2016.
- Margarita Noriega will be our first short-form editor. Margarita, who's led social storytelling at Fusion and breaking news at Reuters, has spent years thinking about how to make the shorter forms of writing that have proliferated online into a really high-quality experience for readers. She's going to be leading Vox's efforts to build short-form products that readers really love.
- Dave Roberts, who you'll know from his years of covering climate and energy at Grist, is joining to cover what may be the most important story in the world for us. He'll be working with Brad Plumer to build out not just Vox's energy and climate coverage, but also our resources for understanding those crucial topics.
- Soo Oh, who's been a news developer at the Chronicle of Higher Education and the LA Times, will join us as a news app developer. She'll be working with Yuri Victor and the Editorial Products team on building tools, surfacing data sets for reporters and readers to explore, and telling stories in wonderful ways that can happen when there's deep collaboration between technology and journalism.
They'll be joining a team of some of the most dedicated and talented writers, videographers, designers, editors, developers, social media managers, and analysts around. From a crew of about a dozen people at launch, we've expanded to a group of over 40 that is still growing even though we keep running out of desks in the office.
So hang on. Year one was great, but year two is going to be greater.