VICE Media wants to take over the world — and love them or hate them, they might just pull it off.
At a $ 2.5 billion valuation — which is high for a tech company and virtually unheard of for a media company — what began as a boutique “heroin chic” rag has become one of the most lucrative online media empires on the planet. If co-founder Shane Smith is to be believed, VICE Media is on track to bring in $ 1 billion in revenue by 2016.
And the site is no longer content to stay confined by print and digital boundaries. Smith told Business Insider this year, “I think the next stage of that is you’re in a hotel in Barcelona, and you’re going to turn on the news, and it’s going to be VICE. You’re going to be in France, you’re going to be in Ireland. It’s going to be VICE.”
Today, VICE takes another step toward global domination by revamping its flagship site, VICE.com. It will also hire dozens of new editorial employees around the world to increase the amount of content it produces daily.
“VICE.com is the gateway drug into the world of VICE, offering the best of what we do in one beautiful, functional site,” said Alex Miller, Global Head of Content for VICE.com. “As our audience grows, so too must we, so this new and improved VICE.com is the result of listening to exactly what our readers want and giving them just that.”
In VICE’s mind, that means a greater emphasis on photos, both contemporary and archival, plus a clean, content-forward site that reminds me of the new Digg in all the right ways.
As for the new content, this will include a number of new video series like “The Real,” which will examine “the characters and stories said to inspire cult TV and film,” plus new seasons of the investigative “VICE Report” as well as its UK documentary series “Rule Brittania.”
Everything seems to be rolling VICE’s way, but there is one major concern: Focus.
Part of VICE’s success lies in its unmistakable brand which, in a nutshell, is young, buzzed, and beautiful people doing interesting or important things. And If Smith wants VICE to be everywhere you go, including on TV, not only could that dilute its hipster brand; it could also create tensions within an organization that, from the outside at least, appears to be moving in every direction at once, as fast as it can. When and if VICE is found alongside CNN and Fox News on the channel list for every hotel TV in the nation, will the brand lose some of its edge? Will the site, whose storytelling is so on-brand that it inspired a parody Twitter account, lose sight of what makes a VICE story?
Miller says no: “A VICE story is something that changes the way you look at the world, turns black to white, up to down and throws you out of the house.”