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Hundreds of Jobs Cut as Vice Media Group Closes Digital Content Distribution

ByHuey Yee Ong

Mar 7, 2024
Hundreds of Jobs Cut as Vice Media Group Closes Digital Content Distribution

Hundreds of Jobs Cut as Vice Media Group Closes Digital Content Distribution

Once celebrated for its pioneering approach to journalism and a valuation surpassing $5 billion, Vice Media Group has announced the shutdown of its independent news operations, marking a significant shift in the digital media landscape. Bruce Dixon, the Chief Executive of Vice Media Group, communicated to employees that the company will cease publishing on its primary platform, Vice.com, signaling the end of its endeavors in independent digital content distribution. This decision, attributed to financial inefficacy in their previous distribution model, led to the termination of several hundred jobs within the company. Vice is now exploring partnerships with established media entities to continue offering its digital content, including news, through their global platforms as it transitions entirely to a studio model.

Why Is Vice Moving Away from Independent News?

This pivot away from independent news operation is part of the broader narrative of Vice’s rise and fall. The company, which began as a Montreal-based punk magazine in the 1990s, expanded into a global media conglomerate, boasting 3,000 employees, international offices, a presence on HBO, a film production studio, and more. Its co-founder Shane Smith was instrumental in portraying Vice as the future of media, promising a fresh, gonzo journalism approach that would outpace traditional news outlets like CNN, ESPN, and MTV.

Investors, including names like 21st Century Fox, James Murdoch, and Disney, were drawn to Vice’s bold vision, pouring hundreds of millions into the company. This influx of capital led to a peak valuation of $5.7 billion in 2017, setting Vice at the forefront of the digital media revolution. The company’s news division was particularly lauded, securing several Peabody awards and sharing a Pulitzer for audio reporting, alongside accolades for its investigative pieces on significant global issues.

Controversy and Challenges Inside Vice Media

However, the journey was not without its controversies. A 2018 investigation by The New York Times exposed a toxic workplace environment at Vice, marred by allegations of sexual harassment and a pervasive “boys club” culture. These revelations prompted the departure of key executives, including Smith, and cast a shadow over Vice’s internal operations.

Despite these challenges, Vice’s decline can be primarily attributed to the changing media landscape and financial difficulties, culminating in a bankruptcy filing last year. The company was eventually sold for $350 million to a consortium led by Fortress Investment Group, a stark contrast to its previous valuations. This sale and the subsequent shutdown of Vice’s news division underscore the volatility of the digital media industry, which has seen similar downturns among other high-profile entities like BuzzFeed News and The Messenger.

In the memo detailing the decision, Dixon also mentioned ongoing discussions regarding the sale of Refinery29, another brand under the Vice Media Group umbrella, indicating a continued strategy of divestment and restructuring.

The End of an Era: Reflecting on Vice’s Legacy

As the digital media sphere grapples with these closures and the search for sustainable business models, the story of Vice’s rise and fall serves as a cautionary tale. It reflects the complexities of adapting to an ever-evolving industry where innovation, financial health, and corporate culture play critical roles in a company’s longevity and impact.

The closure of Vice’s news operations not only signifies the end of an era for the company but also raises questions about the future of digital journalism and the media’s ability to adapt to changing consumption patterns and economic pressures.


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Featured Image courtesy of Mario Tama/Getty Images

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.