Prior to founding Vox, Ezra Klein worked for The Washington Post as the head of Wonkblog, a public policy blog. When Klein attempted to launch a new site using funding from the newspaper's editors, his proposal was turned down and Klein subsequently left The Washington Post for a position with Vox Media, another communications company, in January 2014.The New York Times described Vox Media as "a technology company that produces media" rather than its inverse, associated with "Old Media". From his new position, Klein worked towards the establishing of Vox, including hiring new journalists for the site. Klein expected to "improve the technology of news" and build an online platform better equipped for making news understandable. The new site's 20-person staff was chosen for their expertise in topic areas and included Slate's Matthew Yglesias, Melissa Bell, and Klein's colleagues from The Washington Post.Vox was launched on April 6, 2014.
Klein serves as Vox's editor-in-chief. His opening editorial essay, "How politics makes us stupid", explained his distress about political polarization in the context of Yale Law School professor Dan Kahan's theories on how people protect themselves from information that conflicts with their core beliefs.
In June 2016, Vox suspended contributor Emmett Rensin for a series of tweets calling for anti-Trump riots, including one on June 3, 2016, that urged, "If Trump comes to your town, start a riot." The tweets drew attention after violent anti-Trump protests took place in San Jose, California on the day of Rensin's tweet.Elizabeth Plank was hired in 2016 as a political correspondent, and in 2017 launched her own series with Vox Media, called Divided States of Women.
In September 2017, Vox announced that Ezra Klein would be taking a new role as editor-at-large, and that Klein's deputy, Lauren Williams, would be named editor-in-chief.
Vox's mission is to "explain the news", meaning it strives to make sure its readers "understand what just happened," by providing "contextual information that traditional news stories aren't designed to carry." To reuse work from authors prior to the relaunch in 2014, Vox creates "card stacks" in bright "canary yellow" that provide context and define terms within an article. The cards are perpetually maintained as a form of "wiki page written by one person with a little attitude". As an example, a card about the term "insurance exchange" may be reused on stories about the Affordable Care Act.
Vox uses Vox Media's Chorus content management system, which enables journalists to easily create articles with complex visual effects and transitions, such as photos that change as the reader scrolls. Vox Media's properties target educated households with six-figure incomes and a head of house less than 35 years old.
Vox has a YouTube channel by the same name where they have regularly posted videos on news and informational subjects since 2014. These videos are accompanied by an article on their website. The themes covered in the videos are usually similar to the themes covered in the regular, written articles on the website. The channel has over 4.9 million subscribers and over one billion views as of late October 2018. Content surrounds both current affairs, timeline of certain events, and interesting facts.
Vox distributes seven podcasts, all hosted by Vox staff:
The Weeds is a twice-weekly roundtable podcast, hosted by Klein, Yglesias, and healthcare-policy correspondent Sarah Kliff, focusing on U.S. national news with a focus on the fine details of public policy.
The Ezra Klein Show is a weekly interview podcast in which Klein interviews guests in politics and media.
I Think You're Interesting is a weekly interview podcast about the arts, entertainment, and pop culture, hosted by Vox's "critic at large" Todd VanDerWerff.
Worldly is a weekly roundtable podcast focusing on U.S. foreign policy and international affairs, hosted by Vox foreign-and-security-policy writers Jennifer Williams, Zach Beauchamp, and Alex Ward; Yochi Dreazen also previously hosted.
The Impact is a weekly narrative podcast hosted by Kliff investigating the effects of policy decisions in practice.
Today, Explained is a daily podcast, hosted by Sean Ramaswaram, providing short explanations of items in the news.
Future Perfect is a weekly podcast, hosted by Dylan Matthews, exploring provocative ideas with the potential to radically improve the world.
Original programming by Vox has been recognized by the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, which are presented by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In 2017, the documentary 2016 Olympics: What Rio Doesn’t Want the World to See was nominated in the "Outstanding News Special" category, Vox Pop was nominated in the "Outstanding Arts, Culture and Entertainment Report" and "Outstanding Graphic Design and Art Direction" categories, and The Secret Life of Muslims was nominated in the "Outstanding Short Documentary" category. In 2018, Borders was nominated in the "Outstanding Video Journalism: News" category, and Earworm received nominations in the "Outstanding Graphic Design and Art Direction" and "Outstanding New Approaches: Arts, Lifestyle and Culture" categories.
In March 2014, before it had officially launched, Vox was criticized by conservative media commentators, including Erick Erickson, for a video it had published.
The website's launch received significant media attention. Websites noted that the launch came around the same time as other data and explainer websites like FiveThirtyEight and The New York Times' The Upshot.Vox was described as using clickbait-style headlines to enhance shareability and to act as a "Wikipedia for ongoing news stories".
Shortly after it launched, conservative writer David Harsanyi criticized the site's concept of "explanatory journalism" in an article in The Federalist titled "How Vox makes us stupid", arguing that the website selectively chose facts, and that "explanatory journalism" inherently leaves out opposing viewpoints and different perspectives. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry at The Week argued that the website produced "partisan commentary in question-and-answer disguise" and criticized the site for having a "starting lineup [that] was mostly made up of ideological liberals."The Week's Ryu Spaeth described the site's operations as, "It essentially takes the news (in other words, what is happening in the world at any given moment in time) and frames it in a way that appeals to its young, liberal audience."
The Economist, commenting on Klein's launching essay "How politics makes us stupid", said the website was "bright and promising" and the premise behind the site was "profoundly honourable", and positively compared the site's mission to John Keats's negative capability. In December 2014, the website Deadspin wrote a post listing each time Vox ran a correction for a factual error in an article. In an opinion piece in The Washington Times, Christopher J. Harper criticized the site for numerous reporting mistakes.
Vox received 8.2 million unique visitors in July 2014.
In a 2017 interview on Nieman Lab, Klein stated: "We watch our audience data pretty closely, and our audience data does not show or suggest to us that we are overwhelmingly read on one side or the other of the political sphere, which is good...And overall our audience leans a bit left, but it doesn’t lean overwhelmingly so."