Science, tech, and "future" news website The Verge has an unlisted video (above) live on its YouTube account for something called "DNP_The Verge :30 [Super Bowl]." It really seems like a Super Bowl commercial. The site also published and then quickly removed a post called "DNP Verge Super Bowl ad." It briefly popped up in people's RSS feeds. Nilay Patel, the editor in chief of the Verge, did not respond to an email for comment.
This year a 30-second ad, the length of the Verge video, costs $4 million to air. But maybe this video is a parody, a commentary, or a video that the site will tweet out during Super Bowl commercial breaks. It's called "The Future Belongs to You," and the voice-over says (in part): "It’s not the future we expected, but it’s here and it’s moving faster than ever. This is the future. it belongs to you."
Super Bowl ads are usually ultra-mainstream, so tech companies have coveted the airtime over the years as a place to show how novel, yet how relatable their products and services are. Apple's "1984" is one classic example, and E*Trade, Motorola, Google, Samsung and more have produced others.
Vox Media, which owns the Verge, raised $46.5 million in November on a valuation of about $380 million. Using $4 million of that money for one ad would be a controversial decision. It already is controversial, and it hasn't even been confirmed yet. But it would be a statement that a media company can also be a tech company—and a pretty ambitious and influential one at that.
Update, Jan. 20, 2015, 2:45 p.m.: Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff confirms that it's ... something. Could still be a viral marketing stunt.
Update, Jan. 20, 3:25 p.m.: FishbowlNY is confirming that the ad will run during the Super Bowl broadcast on Feb. 1.
Update, Jan. 20, 7 p.m.: Vox's Verge ad will air locally during the Super Bowl in Helena, Montana (population 28,000). It cost Vox $700.