For building a $2.5bn media empire, that remains as authentic and uncompromising as ever
“We want you to love us or hate us, we just don’t want you to be indifferent.”
- Shane Smith, Founder.
This is the mantra for a challenger brand. In 2015, Vice seem to be growing up but they’ve kept this polarising position at their centre.
In 20 years they’ve grown from a youth culture magazine to a media brand who boast an audience of 130 million with offices in 34 countries. Their online presence currently spans 11 channels, have launched their own creative agency Virtue, and had Murdoch buy a 5% slice of the company in 2013.
They broke through the clutter originally because they had a completely different style of journalism, not as outsider reporting on events but an insider's view, and much of Vice’s success since has been attributed a similar approach to video journalism, which they call 'immersionism'. Immersionism is their way of bringing you news direct from the source of the action. Whether it’s a rave in a warehouse in Chapeltown or conflict from the frontline in Syria, rather than follow a conventional TV news media structure that has a news anchor to introduce and then a reporter talking to camera who is nearby, Vice gets closer, both physically and figuratively, without stories edited via a newsroom and often dangerously close, as seen with their documentary'Islamic State' where reporters spent three weeks embedded with the terrorist group.
And today, while you can still read articles with headlines such as "I watched 40 hours of Game of Thrones" or "Why more men are sitting down to pee", the launch of Vice News shows there’s been a clear shift towards more serious news journalism in recent years. Describing their brand neighbourhood today, and taking into account the breadth of their coverage, it wouldn’t be so weird to hear them mentioned in the same breath as The Guardian or New York Times - and that’s the company founder Shane Smith wants to keep; he recently said he wants Vice to be bigger than CNN.
Vice is challenging the assumption that the younger generation doesn’t want to read or watch news - believing that there is a huge appetite for current affairs reporting, just not in the way it has always been done - and love them or hate them, they're proving to be right.
Editor of The Challenger Project, marketing at eatbigfish. Champion of the underdog. West Ham fan. All adds up really.