VICE built a model that destroyed an industry

By Cameron Skidmore

Photo Courtesy of Vice Media

When VICE was established, it was seen to be a beacon of the counter-cultural underworld. They were as punk as a publication could be covering everything that wasn’t mainstream that they could. As the “new-age” Rolling Stone, they covered everything from news stories, to music, to drug-induced fantasies.

Soon though, they garnered enormous success and began to attract more eyes and were forced to make a decision, stay punk or sell out? In reality, though, whats authenticity worth if your broke.

Establishing a digital presence that towered over well-cemented news outlets, VICE continued to pump out stories more attractive to their youth-centered audiences along with what they deemed “Branded Content.” Whether you call it that, “native advertising,” or “sponsored content” it all comes down to the same business model:

(Advertisements + Sensational Pieces) x Bored Teenagers = MONEY

VICE did what many other outlets could not; establish trust with their viewers alongside creating branded content. Soon other establishments such as Bloomberg, Washington Post, and the New York Times began to follow a similar business model. However, their readers, more accustomed to these publications living outside of this sort of integration, began to find that they were not only losing readers but also trust.

VICE thrived on this model though because essentially they help to build it. While other media outlets were either consolidating, laying off employees, or just shutting down altogether, VICE continued to expand.

VICE now has a bevy of sites (Broadly, Noisey, Munchies) and began their own cable network VICELAND at a time when the cable industry is also in peril. They exploited their popularity and were opportunistic and taking up as much space as possible in order to pump out the largest amount of content, whether branded or original, they could. Their model of selling space for “branded content” is VICE’s strength but subsequently the industries greatest weakness.