DPS recap: Vox Media taps Wright’s Media to take over content licensing for three of its verticals

Content licensing for three of Vox Media’s verticals will soon be handled by Wright’s Media, an agency that works with publishers to grow their licensing businesses.

Wright’s Media will be in charge of selling badges and awards seals for The Verge, the Strategist and Polygon – Vox Media’s tech, shopping and gaming publications, respectively – Eric Karp, Vox Media’s svp of brand licensing, announced on Monday at the Digiday Publishing Summit in Key Biscayne, Fla. The official announcement will be made on Oct. 1, he said.

Wright’s Media was already working with The Dodo, Thrillist and PopSugar (formerly Group Nine verticals, before the merger with Vox Media that closed in February 2022), but The Verge, Strategist and Polygon’s content licensing was being handled by another company. 

Vox Media’s expanded deal with Wright’s Media means the licensing agency will soon be tasked with the content licensing businesses of the six Vox Media verticals determined to have the “most commercial” opportunities in these businesses, Karp said in an interview. 

“We couldn’t have two partnerships,” Karp said. “But more than anything, what we needed was something of a one-stop shop, so that we can share information and share best practices across all the brands.”

Vox Media has five brand licensing businesses in addition to content licensing, including brand collaborations, fan merchandise, book publishing, strategic marketing/advertising and retail programs, Karp said onstage at the summit. Vox Media’s retail programs business announced a large deal between animal-focused vertical The Dodo and Walmart about two weeks ago to sell three offerings: pet products, pet insurance (a program The Dodo introduced about eight months ago) and Walmart’s first pet subscription box, which became available this week.

A “badge” is often a logo that signals a publication’s editors selected and verified that product or company as a “top pick.” Wright’s Media’s role is to find companies in relevant categories – such as those mentioned in that publication’s awards programs – who might be interested in paying to use the badges and logos as marketing on their websites, physical products or in stores. Wright’s Media takes a commission from that deal, and the rest goes to Vox Media, Karp said. 

Karp declined to share Wright’s Media’s commission fee. However, he described the licensing business as “very lucrative” and a “very high profitability business.” Karp declined to share how much revenue comes from licensing.

“There’s no cost of sales to Vox Media for any of these transactions. It’s a direct, [EBITDA] contribution – every single dollar. It’s all profit contribution,” he said. 

Unlike an advertising deal – where Vox Media is obligated to create content and distribute it across its platforms – “there’s no cost of sales against badges because we are just delivering a digital asset,” Karp said.

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