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Photo: Vox Media

Ezra Klein, co-founder and editor-at-large of Vox.com, the political news website owned by Vox Media, and Lauren Williams, editor-in-chief and senior vice president of Vox.com, are leaving the company, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: They are the latest examples of high-profile media executives to leave management roles in pursuit of more hands-on, creative careers.

  • Last week, one of Vox.com's other co-founders, Matthew Yglesias, left Vox to start his own newsletter. He told Axios in an interview last week that he will continue to host his Vox Media podcast, "The Weeds."
  • Glenn Greenwald, a columnist at The Intercept, last month quit the publication he co-founded after seven years, citing efforts by his editors to "censor" articles critical of President-elect Joe Biden.

The state of play: Klein is going to the New York Times, where he will have a regular column and podcast.

  • His Vox podcast, "The Ezra Klein Show," will go away, but Vox plans to launch a new interview show next year. All of the production staff that worked on Klein's podcast will remain with the company.
  • Williams is launching a new nonprofit startup called "Capital B," focused on creating a news outlet for civic journalism tailored to Black communities.
  • Vox Media publisher Melissa Bell tells Axios, "I couldn’t be more excited for Lauren's ambitious next step. She's identified an urgently necessary publication, and we look forward to partnering with her new outlet."

The company has begun a search for two new leaders to fill Williams' role — a new business-focused SVP and a new editor-in-chief.

  • It will be filling at least ten new roles in the months to come, including senior editors that will report to the new editor-in-chief. It will continue searching for a managing editor of operations, a job that's been posted for a few weeks.

The changes mark a new era for Vox, the news brand, and Vox Media, the publishing company that owns it, as well as a dozen other brands across topics like food, politics, gaming, tech, and sports.

  • "We have had a very long run of a founding team at Vox — almost seven years," says Bell, another Vox co-founder. "While it's great to have high retention rates, I do feel excited about this new transition period. It allows us to take a hard look at what Vox will be in the years ahead."

Flashback: Vox was launched in 2014 by Bell, Klein and Yglesias. The site got its start with wonky, yet relatable political analysis that resembled the early days of web blogging. Its YouTube video explainers helped put it on the map for millions of more people outside of the political sphere.

  • Today, Bell says Vox has received "tens of thousands" of individual contributions from readers who want to support the brand. The Vox franchise hosts several hit podcasts, including Klein's and Yglesias' — as well as a show on Netflix, called "Explained," and several YouTube series.

Vox Media is also facing a moment of transition as it emerges from the first few months of the pandemic.

  • On Tuesday, Vox Media CEO and chairman Jim Bankoff sent a note to staff saying he would be reinstating 401(k) matches at 2% as well merit and promotion increases — things impacted by pandemic-related cost-cutting measures in April. He also said he would be gifting its roughly 1,200 employees with a $1,000 year-end gift.
  • Bankoff noted that the company's ad business has rebounded since the second quarter, and that the company has seen progress in subscriptions and commerce. "We've reached a point of stability," he said.

Be smart: Bankoff noted that leadership transition has always been a part of Vox Media's story.

  • Tyler Bleszinski, co-founder of SB Nation, left the company in 2015. Joshua Topolsky, co-founder of The Verge, left in 2014 and later went on to start his own tech site, The Outline.

The big picture: The pandemic has wreaked havoc on many media businesses, pushing further consolidation within the industry. It's also served as a moment of transition for high-profile journalists to leave newsrooms to launch their own, independent brands.

  • On Thursday, BuzzFeed said it agreed to buy HuffPost from Verizon Media in an all-stock deal.
  • Vox Media acquired New York Media in late 2019, expanding its network of brands from Vox, Eater, Recode, The Verge, Polygon and SB Nation to include also franchises like New York Magazine, The Cut, The Strategist, Grub Street, the Intelligencer and Vulture.

What's next: Vox plans to double down on video and audio streaming as a part of its growth trajectory and will be launching a new show with HBO, Bankoff said.

  • "We want to be the largest OTT channel in news," he added. The company also plans to launch more digital TV channels next year, alongside new and existing shows on Netflix and YouTube.
  • Vox has a new slate of podcasts planned for 2021, Bell says, including new science and history shows.
  • Vox Media also plans to continue investing in its video and audio streaming products. The company now produces over 200 podcasts and has eight shows with streaming platforms actively in production, in addition to a multi-year, multi-show deal with Hulu.

Go deeper

Dec 15, 2020 - Economy & Business

Sports podcast company Blue Wire raises $5 million Series A

Photo of Blue Wire CEO Kevin Jones, Photo credit: Olivia May

Blue Wire, a sports podcast company, has raised $5 million in its series A round, founder Kevin Jones tell Axios.

Why it matters: The company, which focuses on long-form sports narrative podcasts and conversational podcasts, now hosts more than 140 podcasts with over 20 million downloads for the year. It has $1.5 million in 2020 revenue via sponsorship partnerships via brands like Chevy and Visa.

Updated 12 mins ago - Sports

MLB headed for first lockout since '95 as deal expires

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred (L) and Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Tony Clark. Photo: Matt King/MLB via Getty Images

Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement expired at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday without a new deal in place.

Why it matters: With no CBA, the MLB is headed for the first management lockout since a 1994-95 strike led to the cancelation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years, per AP.

Media giants back Bannon's bid to release Jan. 6 documents

Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon at the FBI Washington Field Office in Washington, DC., in November. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

A coalition of news outlets including the Washington Post is supporting Stephen Bannon's campaign for the release of documents related to his contempt of Congress charges, WashPost confirmed Wednesday.

Why it matters: WashPost, the New York Times, CNN, NBC, the Wall Street Journal's parent company and others filed a motion arguing that a proposed protective order seeking to prevent the documents from being released violates the First Amendment, per the Daily Mail, which first reported on the news.