To much anticipation, consumer tech blog The Verge launched yesteday. The Verge is the newest site in the newly named Vox Media stable, joining SB Nation, and is led by Joshua Topolsky and much of his editorial team from Engadget along with publisher Marty Moe.
Engadget, of course, was the leading gadget blog on the web (and, at one time was the top overall blog in terms of traffic). Josh and much of the Engadget team left as AOL closely integrated the blog into the Huffington Post organization.
SB Nation had already made a name for itself through its dual focus on great editorial content and a heavy emphasis on its technology platform. In fact, their mantra, under CEO Jim Bankoff, was Always Be Coding, not the typical fare you’d expect at a media company. And they are bringing that technology focus, along with an emphasis on local, social, real-time news to the new site as well.
I think the Verge is well-positioned for success in this market. Others have commented on their fresh-looking UI. I agree, but design can be copied by others (and other sites, like Newser, have created similarly compelling visual designs). I see two critical factors that position The Verge for success:
Posts built on top of Structured data. Blogs are just blogs – a bunch of articles you can browse or search for. But The Verge starts out with a structured database of products and layers its articles on top of that. This provides a number of benefits:
- Great product pages. Take a look at the page for the Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch. It’s got specs, reviews, photos, a video and an easy comparison engine.
- Better navigation – The Verge offers faceted filtering, so you can find stories on digital camers from Canon, Nikon and Panasonic, costing under $200 and with a review score of 6 or higher. The filtering is a bit quirky right now, but I expect they’ll resolve those bugs quickly.
- Easy new product development. It would be incredibly easy for The Verge to launch spin-off products - like sponsored mobile apps ranking the best products by category, or to offer up APIs to shopping sites. For every top 10 list you can imagine, they could easily pop out an app or microsite.
- Better SEO for the publisher – blog posts have a short shelf life, but detailed product pages can live for a long time.
The other key feature that The Verge has incorporated from SB Nation is the concept of Story Streams. Similar to the experimental Google Living Stories, Story Streams are designed to allow the reader to follow a story over time. A new reader can read the full story, while someone who’s been following the story can dip in for a quick update. Writers can update posts anywhere within a story, and those updates can be pushed out to readers. Unlike most editorial articles where additional data shows up at the end of the story, with Story Streams, you’ll typically see the newest information at the top, with links to prior updates.
Looking at the Story Stream for the Amazon Kindle Fire, there are 12 updates, beginning with rumors of the new Kindle in late September, and ending with a gallery of images from last week.
The consumer technology space is a crowded one, and The Verge will not have an easy time leapfrogging the existing players. But they've got all the ingredients to make it happen.
And for online media companies looking for ways to drive revenues and create new products, they could do a lot worse than looking at The Verge's use of editorial on top of structured data as a model.