Instead of gathering in a building lobby and waiting to enter the Vox Media offices, a group of NYU MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media students found themselves launching Zoom and looking for little rectangles with faces and names to appear. This is now a familiar sight for 2020, and it’s also a representation of the flexibility needed when you are a student at NYU in New York City during COVID-19. But we aren’t the only ones facing big – sometimes intimidating – changes. We were privileged to hear from six team members at Vox Media who shared their job descriptions, career paths, and helpful advice, all in ten-minute segments. While our virtual visit was fast-paced, we learned a lot about pivoting and anticipating change in 2020 and in the digital media field in general.
We first heard from Jackie Cinguina, Senior Vice President on the Marketing team for Vox Media. Cinguina addressed the challenges and opportunities that this year has brought to her team: “The ‘what’ we do didn’t change, but the ‘how.’ For example, client meetings stopped, and everything went virtual.” Some new ideas included making their monthly newsletter a weekly one, developing a webinar series with Scott Galloway and Kara Swisher called Pivot Schooled, and taking Vulture Fest completely digital.
Next, we heard from Mallory Johns, Director in Business Development + Partnerships for Ecommerce. Johns shared her background in music and piano performance and called her career “a case study in pivoting.” At Vox Media, she is responsible for prospecting new partnerships for affiliate marketing on behalf of the editorial and sales teams for various sites, including The Strategist. She explained how bullet journaling keeps her prepared for curveballs that come her way when a client schedules a last-minute meeting. She outlines multiple outcomes in her notes, and she also likes to keep track of what others say in brainstorming sessions. Keeping such detailed journals helps her stay connected to everything going on around her and helps her stay ready for any complex situation.
After Johns shared her personal insights as an e-commerce expert, Aaron Tabas, Head of Creative Strategy, gave us a presentation on what his team does at Vox Media. Advertising is changing rapidly within the media world, and brands are focused on creating content that matches what consumers are watching, reading, and viewing on different platforms. “Advertisers want to create content similar to what is on the platform,” he explained. He’s very proud of the fact that Vox won Digiday’s Best Content Studio Award in 2019. “Be ready to work hard, and don’t forget to set your own goals” is one of the many pieces of advice he gave us. We also learned that Vox Media includes a statement about diversity, accessibility, and inclusion with each pitch to advertisers to really push brands to incorporate much needed changes in their advertising strategies.
Next up, Kate Dailey, Managing Editor for Operations at Vox.com, outlined her path to managing editor through various editorial positions including at Men’s Health and Newsweek. Then, she described what her job entails (tracking schedules, managing budgets, and working on Vox fellowships to build the talent pipeline, to name a few duties). When asked what kind of advice she could share for someone interested in becoming a managing editor, she answered: “Having multiple entry points and experience working in the field. It’s a matter of hustling and pitching. One job leads to the next.”
Next, we heard from Alexis Swerdloff, Strategist Editor. In describing how the publication works and its approach to readers, Swerdloff noted: “We’re your crazy, obsessive friend.” She also explained that the goal is to apply rigorous journalistic standards to all subjects. “I thought it was exciting to find a business model that so directly rewarded good journalism, and that was inspiring.” Many of us in the NYU Publishing program come from a writing-based background, and hearing about the value placed on good writing was encouraging as we explore different career paths within this field.
Lastly, we heard from David Fucillo, Editor-in-Chief at DraftKings Nation, which is a vertical resulting from a partnership between DraftKings and Vox Media. His career path involved going to law school and working for the Oakland As. Although Fucillo did not have a traditional writing background, he was clearly involved in different writing ventures and kept pursuing his interests in sports overall. His expertise in sports betting was critical to his current position. “Have an area where you can turn yourself into an expert,” he emphasized.
Although each speaker came from a separate team within Vox Media, there were common themes in each presentation. Pivoting, adapting and anticipating change are all important aspects to keep in mind for every job. Getting to hear from these industry experts showed us that we need to keep pursuing our goals and curating our interests even during uncertain times.
By Magdalene Baert – NYU CAS ’16 & NYU MS in Publishing ’21
Magdalene is a second-year student in the MS in Publishing program at NYU. She enjoys reading, cooking and watching all kinds of sports.
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