As part of a larger redesign and streamlining of the digital media company’s website and editorial structure, Vice Media is bringing all of its more than a dozen digital brands under one roof at Vice.com, the company announced today. Additionally, the company is rolling out a new proprietary audience metric and is making changes to its blacklist policy for advertisers.
Stand-alone news sites like Broadly, Amuse, Free, Tonic, Waypoint and Vice Sports will be folded into Vice.com. Other sites, like Motherboard, Noisey, Munchies and Vice News, will no longer have stand-alone sites but will be part of dedicated subject verticals on Vice.com that will retain their branding. Garage and i-D will remain stand-alone sites.
Branding for the retired sites will live on in existing podcasts, newsletters and other editorial products, the company said, and reporters for those sites will continue writing and producing video for the vice.com site in topic verticals associated with existing coverage areas.
With the change, Vice’s content will segment into channels like News, Identity, Entertainment, Music, Food, Tech, Games, Health and Drugs. It’s a move to give advertisers a more unified offering, which the company hopes will drive more engagement from users and give advertisers more opportunities to reach Vice’s audience.
The restructuring is intended to streamline Vice’s editorial structure and make it easier for Vice readers to discover content being produced by the editorial team in one place instead of jumping from independent channel to independent channel, said Josh Cogswell, Vice’s president of digital.
Vice announced the streamlined Vice.com at its Newfronts presentation at Jing Fong Restaurant, a trendy dim sum and banquet space in Chinatown where advertisers, brand and agency reps and reporters were treated to dumplings, General Tso’s chicken, fried rice and bunny-shaped coconut gelatin prior to Vice’s pitch to advertisers.
Dom Delport, Vice’s president of international and global CRO, put the redesign succinctly at the Newfronts presentation. “It’s easier to discover, easier to buy,” he said.
The decision marks a reversal of the company’s previous channel-specific strategy, which had focused on building out niche sites intended for specific audiences. That approach led to confusion from users and marketers about which sites were part of Vice, said Doug Jossem, Vice’s North America chief revenue officer.
“That’s been a huge miss for us, because the content has been great, but marketers don’t even know necessarily that it’s us,” Jossem said. “On top of it, it’s hard for a consumer to navigate between all of these sub-brands as well.”
Katie Drummond, Vice’s newly named svp of digital, said there won’t be any layoffs with the restructure. Vice staff members who previously led channels will continue to oversee coverage areas as editorial directors instead of editors in chief, Drummond said.
The restructuring and redesign, which will go live “in the near future,” Jossem said, is just one portion of a number of changes Vice announced today that are aimed at shoring up Vice’s business and coming up with new and better ways to monetize the journalism and documentaries for which the media brand is known. Part of the redesigned site includes a module for vertically shot videos from Vice correspondents and hosts, which the company said will give the company a way to host their Stories and monetize them directly instead of those ad dollars going to Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.
There are other major changes in the works at Vice, and not just in the form of new programming coming to Vice News and Vice Studios. Vice will no longer allow marketers to blacklist 25 terms generally associated with people’s identities, like the terms “gay,” “transgender,” “Jewish,” “Christian,” “Muslim,” “immigrant” or “interracial.” The practice of blacklisting terms, in which advertisers tell publishers the type of content they do not want to appear alongside, is often intended to ensure brand safety, but Jossem said common terms on blacklists Vice regularly saw were preventing ads from running on legitimate articles.
“The words ‘lesbian’ and ‘gay’ and ‘LGBTQ’ should never be blocked, or something marketers don’t support, because these are their consumers,” Jossem said. “It’s mind-boggling that they would do that.”
Vice intends for the list to serve as a living document to be added to over time. Cavel Khan, Vice’s svp of client partnerships, urged the advertisers to examine their own blacklists and discuss making them more inclusive.
“Bias should not be the collateral damage of our much-needed brand safety efforts,” Khan said.
Vice is also making a big change in how it measures its reach. The company is drawing a line through its Comscore partner network, which had previously rolled other sites into Vice’s monthly reach, and it is introducing a proprietary measurement methodology called global audience reach, which will take into account Vice’s de-duplicated audiences on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube in addition to its traffic on its website and television channel. Jossem and Cogswell said existing third-party measurements were inaccurately measuring Vice’s reach. Cogswell said Vice intends to be transparent about how it reaches those measurement figures so marketers can understand how the figures are calculated.
“These measuring systems like Comscore and Nielsen have failed to adapt to the rapidly changing landscape and no longer accurately represent a digital publisher like Vice that has adopted a platform-agnostic approach,” Delport said.
The company estimates it reaches 300 million people around the world, including 110 million people in the U.S., according to Vice’s global audience reach. (Comscore’s worldwide multiplatform figure pegged Vice.com’s total global audience in February 2019 at about 62 million and its U.S. total audience in the same month at around 38 million, a Comscore rep said.)
All of the changes are the continuation of an ongoing rethinking and repositioning of the company’s business under the leadership of CEO Nancy Dubuc, a longtime A&E Networks executive who joined Vice Media in March 2018. Since her arrival, Dubuc has made a number of changes intended to streamline the company’s business and to double down on big-screen projects and branded content. In February, Dubuc oversaw a round of layoffs that affected 10 percent of the company, or about 250 people, after the company missed its revenue goals.
Dubuc has also been tasked with cleaning up the company’s image, which had for years been defined by the personality of its brash co-founder Shane Smith. Smith stepped down as CEO last year after the company weathered sexual harassment allegations and allegations of gender discrimination.
Dubuc was last to take the stage Wednesday afternoon. She thanked Smith, the Vice team, the attendees and the restaurant staff and stressed to advertisers her pitch: Young people are the future, and brands can reach young people at Vice.
“Because of how young this world is, we know that Vice’s megaphone as a brand is really just beginning to make an impact,” she said.
This post has been updated to include details from Vice’s Newfronts event.