Technology News Site The Verge Launches in DC

The online publication hopes to become the go-to source for all things tech in the Washington area.

By: Carol Ross Joynt

This week saw the launch in Washington of the much-anticipated technology Web site The Verge. It is part of Vox Media—a new name for an expanded and enhanced version of what formerly was SBNation, a network of sports blogs—as well as an offshoot of AOL’s Engadget. The Verge hopes to become the user-friendly Web site for everyone, meaning those who consume and use technology, those who create it, and those who earn their livings in the field. Its cofounders are onetime Engadget editor and Washington Post “gadget guru” Joshua Topolsky; SBNation CEO Jim Bankoff; and Marty Moe, a former Clinton Administration official and AOL executive.

We talked to Moe, 46, about the launch of the site, his forecasts for Apple and Facebook, and the products that will be on everyone’s holiday wish list.

Why will people want to visit your site?
To keep up with breaking news and analysis on a daily and hourly basis. For those in the technology industry, you need to come to Verge to stay on top of what’s happening. For those involved in policy, we have extensive policy coverage, and for those who are consumers, who want to prices and products, you can find detailed information on any product on the market.

What brought together you and your cofounders?
We shared a vision for a big tech media company, because what was being offered online did not really evolve to a point where the media coverage was as serious and as large as the industry itself. Consumer technology over the past several years has become a much more mainstream cultural force. The public is beginning to understand the language, and frankly, everybody is buying these things. Take smartphones, for example. They are not just part of technology news, they are part of life.

What kind of traffic have you seen in your first few days as a live site?
While we were building The Verge, we had a temporary site called This Is My Next. In the four and a half months that it was live, with no marketing, we had 3 million unique visitors and more than 10 million page views a month. We expect to significantly exceed that in our first month of launch.

We think of Washington’s tech world as being out in Virginia. Where are your offices?
Dupont Circle. 1740 N Street. We’re in a townhouse.

How many employees are part of the startup, and who are they?
About 30 to 40 people. Our editorial staff is made up of the leading technology writers in the industry. All have tremendous backgrounds. A number were at Endgadget; some are from PC Magazine. The majority of the editorial staffers are based in New York, but our headquarters, sports operation, some sales, and backup are here. We also have people on the West Coast, in Asia, and in Europe. We’ll have most of our people at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show in January. We’ll be covering it like the networks cover political conventions.

Do you plan to grow?
We are definitely hiring.

Are there jobs for baby boomers?
Baby boomers in the tech world? Yes, I think so. For baby boomers, it takes a little more work. Today’s generation is growing up with these products; effective adaptation will be the way that happens [for boomers].

Who’s exciting to you in the Washington area’s “Silicon Valley?”
Clearspring is doing some interesting things. [Clearspring Technologies describes itself as “the leader in connecting publishers, services and advertisers to audiences on the social web.”]

You left AOL just before Arianna Huffington entered the picture. What do you think of what she’s done with AOL?
It remains to be seen. What she’s done with HuffPost has been extraordinary. She’s been a pioneer. AOL has a lot of headwinds against it and is still figuring out all the things that need to happen to the company in the coming months.

What do you forecast for Apple post–Steve Jobs, and what do you think of his successor, Tim Cook?
Apple will continue to be a leader in the personal technology space and will continue to innovate as much as or more than anyone. The company has a tremendous momentum. I don’t think anybody can really fill Jobs’s shoes. He was one of a kind. I’m sure Tim Cook will have his own mark to make. He will continue to focus on product excellence and innovation.

Has Facebook jumped the shark?
I would say signs of any Facebook decline or structural issues are overblown. It remains an incredibly powerful and growing force. Eventually it’s impossible to keep growing when you’ve become that big, but it has won the game of building the biggest audience.

What will be the most wanted technology gift this holiday season?
Smartphones: the iPhone 4S, the recent Android-based phones and tablets. Apple will have a very good holiday, but so will makers of smartphones across the board.