Shane Smith, CEO and co-founder of Vice Media, announced last week that the media company might go public. What began as a cultural magazine in Canada is now a rapidly expanding digital media empire that many have labeled as “immersive journalism.”
Additionally, the expansion of Vice’s digital format has gained the attention of various media players, including Rupert Murdoch who bought a 5 percent stake in the company last summer.
NPR’s Media Correspondent David Folkenflik discusses Vice Media, its growing empire, and how the company fits into the larger media landscape, with Here & Now’s Robin Young.
Interview Highlights: David Folkenflik
On the type of journalism Vice delivers
“It’s a journalism that’s done with a lot of bravado, lot of voice, a lot of very personalized accounting of seeing things that are both colorful, provocative, often upsetting. You know, they’ll delve into the universe of the porn industry or delve into incredible conflict in places that are strife-torn around the world, that becomes its own kind of — in a sense, crisis porn.”
On Vice’s appeal
“What Vice has done so well in all of these platforms is really speak a vernacular that works for — particularly men, but people under the age of 35, especially call it between the ages of 18 and 24. So you can argue that it’s a punk kind of journalism done by punks, and there’s some truth to that. You can argue that was done with this Dennis Rodman trip to North Korea is a stunt — and I think it definitely was. It did also give the cameras of Shane Smith some incredible camera access there.”
On Shane Smith’s projections that he could rival Twitter with a Vice IPO
“Just to give you a sense, the market cap — which is the way you talk about how the market values a company — of Twitter was earlier this morning just under $25 billion. Rupert Murdoch a year ago took money of one of his major companies, 21st Century Fox, and got a 5 percent stake in the company that would have meant that the total value of the company was about $1.4 billion. So a year later, if he’s saying it’s worth 10 times twice that, I think that he’s stretching credibility. It’s hard for me to imagine that. That said, they claim that they’ve been able to increase profit margins something like 28 percent, reaching 35 percent. They think that they can hit 50 percent profit margins in a couple years. They hope to acquire, they claim, a TV channel, sort of as a straight drip, I guess, of their own videos and programming rather than teaming as much with HBO and MTV. But theirs is a real success story and it’s done a lot on partly a bluff and partly bravado and then he kind of makes a lot of it come true.”