April 7, 2014 Last Updated 1:43 pm

Ezra Klein-led Vox.com website launches as ‘a work in progress’

The new Vox.com launched today with a post by Ezra Klein, Melissa Bell and Matt Yglesias. The site, which had launched in early March with a few videos, now contains content, though will several important features still missing.

Vox-webThe site design is, as many new websites are today, mobile-first. One could also call it a digital magazine look. One story fills the screen on all devices and the user must scroll to see other content.

The look is consistent with what many web designers are creating, though it violates a fairly long standing rule that websites are from browsing, while print and tablets are for leisure-time reading.

But the site’s goal is to be a news analysis site, as the team wrote last month on its first post to the site.

“The media is excellent at reporting the news and pretty good at adding commentary atop the news. What’s lacking is an organization genuinely dedicated to explaining the news. That is to say, our end goal isn’t telling you what just happened, or how we feel about what just happened, it’s making sure you understand what just happened.”

On both the desktop and smartphone versions, the lead story is about Colorado after the state legalized recreational marijuana sales. The article by German Lopez looks at the state’s crime rate following legalization and see no jump in crime rates.

“We had folks, kind of doomsayers, saying, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re going to have riots in the streets the day they open,'” Denver City Council President Mary Beth Susman, a supporter of legal marijuana, says. “But it was so quiet.”– from Vox.com feature

Interestingly, this feature is not what leads the site when it is viewed on a tablet. Instead, a story on the crisis in Ukraine is at the top of the page – probably the result of the way the site’s system displays its content.

But the site is still working out its bugs and has yet to turn on commenting.

“The site we have today isn’t perfect, and it isn’t anywhere near complete — not editorially, and not technologically. Poking around this evening, or this week, or this month, you may notice a few things seem missing. We don’t have commenting features on most articles. We don’t have a menu bar. We’re woefully lacking in snazzy data visualizations. We have some card stacks on key topics in the news, but there are many, many more left to build,” this morning’s post says.

Vox-iPhone5-lgThe site is led by former Washington Post columns Ezra Klein, who had approached the newspaper’s management team about funding a similar project there. (In this post on Nieman Journalism Lab, the Post’s editor Marty Baron appears to say that new owner Jeff Bezos was the one to shoot down the pitch from Klein, though he is a bit imprecise.) But Vox Media agreed to back the venture, and so Klein left, bringing Melissa Bell and Dylan Matthews with him. Joining them was blogger and journalist Matthew Yglesias. Altogether, the site now lists 12 staffers, as six writers and severe “writing fellows.” There is also a production team, which one supposes, is comprised of Vox Media employees who work on all the Vox websites (Vox Media also publishes the SB Nation sports blogs).

The website has launched with a single sponsor, General Electric, and at least for now, the site does not look terribly friendly territory for advertising. One guess that will change in the months to come.

One thing that is not clear is whether the Vox.com site will be a digital magazine like the websites being created by Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media, or whether this will be seen as a flagship product with ancillary products being created off of it.

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