If and when Vice Media Inc. goes public, says co-founder Shane Smith, it should equal Twitter’s $28.5 billion market value. This is quite a claim for a magazine that launched, with the help of government funding, in 1994 as Voice of Montreal. The founders’ intentions were to provide a community service as well as employment opportunities. The past ten years have been a wild ride for Vice Media Inc. In 1996, the editors bought out their publisher and changed the name to Vice. By 2000, their corporate headquarters were located Brooklyn, New York, a mecca for hipsters and writers, and especially hipster writers. When the company expanded into Vice Media, it created divisions in addition to the magazine that included a record label, a publishing imprint, a film production company, and a website.
In 2012, Rupert Murdoch tweeted about Vice, calling it a “wild, interesting effort to interest Millenials who don’t read or watch established media.” While conventional media outlets are having a tough time reaching a young male audience, Vice’s YouTube channel has 4.4 million subscribers, and the most recently launched Vice News has 237,000. Less than a year after that admiring tweet, Vice Media Inc. sold to Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox a 5 percent stake in the company for $70 million. Fox’s assets facilitated Vice’s expansion into Europe, India, and South America. Smith stated that the connection with Fox was a way for Vice Media Inc. to build a global platform while simultaneously maintaining control. With regard to an upcoming IPO, Smith said in the Bloomberg interview that valuations were high right now and that it would be “stupid not to test what the market would bear.”
By 2016, it is expected that Vice Media Inc. will double its revenue to $1 billion and up its sales profit margins from 34 to 50 percent. Vice refers to itself on its website as a global youth media company, and states that it operates in over 30 countries. Shane Smith has said he hopes for the company to become CNN, ESPN, and MTV all rolled into one, but the largest part of its current content creation deals with serious news topics. The “Immersionist” school of journalism, in which journalists become immersed in a situation and the people involved in it, best describes the company’s ethos. This results in a detailed account of the individual’s experience that comes from a personal perspective while freeing the writer from the usual “pseudo-objectivity” that exists in mainstream news outlets.
The Vice website says that it is “the industry leader in original video for the web,” and that it publishes nearly an hour of new video content daily for its “dozens of original series franchises across all content categories.” Smith commented in the Bloomberg interview that he is considering buying or starting a cable channel because the company produces so much video, noting that it is “always smart to own your own platform if you can.” He added that the de-stratification of media that is currently happening is an opportunity for Vice Media Inc. to buy “distressed media assets and then see if we can’t turn them around.” When asked about Vice Media Inc.’s consideration of an IPO, Smith noted that there was an abundant amount of money “sloshing around in the system.” It certainly seems Vice is in a great position to clean up.
By Donna Westlund