VICE Media founders Shane Smith, Suroosh Alvi, and Gavin McInnes launched the magazine Voice of Montreal in October 1994 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada with government funding to cover music, trends and drug culture not covered in print.
They changed the name to VICE in 1996, and as the magazine became increasingly popular, the company found it difficult to scale their operations while based in Canada. After being acquired in 1999 and moving to New York City , the co-founders bought VICE back and moved to new offices in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in 2001. The magazine continued to gain attention and readership due to its content, commentary, and contributions from the likes of Terry Richardson, Ryan McGinley, and others. The magazine then rapidly expanded internationally, with Andrew Creighton and Andy Capper co-founding the UK division of VICE. The magazine then expanded further into all 5 continents.
In 2006, on the advice of creative director Spike Jonze, VICE began expanding into digital video, launching new video service VBS.tv as a joint venture with MTV Networks. VBS gained a fan base with shows like The VICE Guide To Travel, Epicly Later’d, and Toxic. The documentaries on the channel featured unusual subjects, and were hosted by young people working at VICE Media, often the founders themselves.
In 2007, VICE Media began aggressively expanding its digital video operation, launching new channels, such as Motherboard (tech), Noisey (music), and The Creators Project, an arts/technology site founded in partnership with Intel. VICE Media would later launch sites around Electronic music culture (Thump), global news (VICE News), food (Munchies) and sports (VICE Sports). Additionally, VICE Media launched Virtue Worldwide, a creative services agency, to expand their capabilities for work around their platforms.
In 2008, co-founder Gavin McInnes left VICE Media due to "creative differences" with the company, and founded the website streetcarnage.com. He later co-founded Rooster, an advertising agency, where he has since been terminated after publishing his controversial opinions on transgender issues.
In 2012, VICE Media continued to expand its coverage focused around news and current events.
In mid-August 2013, Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox invested US$70 million in VICE Media, resulting in a 5 percent stake. Following the announcement, Smith explained, "We have set ourselves up to build a global platform but we have maintained control."
In 2013 VICE Media premiered a new 30-minute news program for HBO titled VICE, executive produced by Bill Maher. In 2014, the second season of the show won a Creative Arts Emmy Award for Outstanding Informational Series or Special in the 66th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards.
In 2014, VICE Media launched its news channel, VICE News, which almost immediately gained global attention for its coverage of protests and conflict in Ukraine and Venezuela. As of October 2014, the leader of BBC’s Newsdesk claimed the organization was “playing catch-up” to VICE News.
VICE Media has routinely advocated for their “immersionist” brand of journalism in the pursuit of more authentic and interesting stories. Their founders and editors have regularly garnered controversy from the likes of the New York Times’ David Carr, who bristled in an exchange with Shane Smith in the 2011 documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times (in a 2014 Time column Carr said that VICE had since grown into a strong news entity).
On July 2, 2014, VICE Media announced that it would be relocating into a warehouse space in Williamsburg formerly occupied by music venues 285 Kent, Death by Audio, and Glasslands. VICE spent US$20 million to renovate the 60,000-square-foot (5,600 m2) building as part of an eight-year lease, facilitating the establishment of new production facilities with full broadcast capabilities, and received an offer of US$6.5 million in tax credits from New York state's Empire State Development.
In June 2014, it was reported that Time Warner was negotiating to acquire a minority stake in VICE Media; among the company's plans were to give VICE Media control over the programming of HLN—a spin-off network of CNN which had recently struggled in its attempts to re-focus itself as a younger-skewing, social media-oriented news service. However, the deal fell through as the companies were unable to agree on a proper valuation, and VICE Media chose to partner with A&E Networks for a 10% minority stake. A&E's co-owner Disney made a second investment of $200 million
On October 30, 2014, VICE Media announced a CDN$100 million joint venture with Rogers Communications that to facilitate the construction of production facilities in Toronto, as well as the introduction of a VICE-branded television network and digital properties in Canada in 2015. Rogers CEO Guy Laurence described the proposed studio as "a powerhouse for Canadian digital content focused on 18- to 34-year-olds" that will be "exciting" and provocative." The content of the partnership will be aimed primarily toward digital platforms.
In November 2014, VICE Media announced that Alyssa Mastromonaco, who formerly worked in the Obama administration, would come on board as the company's chief operating officer in January 2015, and that James Schwab, who had previously advised VICE and Dreamworks on media deals, would be joining as Co-President.
On March 26, 2015, HBO announced it would renew its contract to broadcast the weekly VICE documentary series for four years, while expanding the annual broadcast schedule from 14 to nearly 30 episodes.
In November 2015, VICE and A&E Networks announced Viceland, a then-upcoming cable network that would feature VICE-produced content. In March 2016, VICE acquired controlling stake in UK television and film production company Pulse Films.
VICE partnered with HBO again to launch nightly news program VICE News Tonight, beginning on October 10, 2016. The program is slated to run 48 weeks each year, featuring pre-edited video and graphics segments covering global news, technology, the environment, economics, and pop culture, while eschewing the use of live TV anchors.
On March 22, 2017, VICE Media finalized a deal with French digital media studio Blackpills for the creation of a lineup of original short-form programming, set to premiere on VICE's digital video hub, video.vice.com. Blackpills is set to enlist filmmakers including Luc Besson, Bryan Singer, and Zoe Cassavetes in the creative effort. VICE's London subsidiary Pulse Films will also contribute original content that will air on video.vice.com.
On March 14, 2017, VICE announced an expanded original programming deal with Snap Inc. The new deal builds on VICE's previous deal to serve as a 2015 global launch partner on the Snapchat Discover platform. The first program planned under the new deal is Hungry Hearts with Action Bronson, starring the titular rapper.
Later in March 2017, Shane Smith stated that Vice Media would enter the Indian market in the second half of 2017 through a partnership with the Times Group. The company intends to operate a TV network with the Times Group, mobile and online platforms, an OTT platform, and print media. Smith also revealed that the company had "held India back as a launch partner because it's so important to get it right. We didn’t just want to come in, set up a studio and go. We wanted to have a plan, make sure we did it correctly."
VICE is a print magazine and website focused on arts, culture, and news topics. Founded in 1994 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, the magazine later expanded into VICE Media, which consists of divisions including the magazine and website, a film production company, a record label, and a publishing imprint. As of February 2015, the magazine's Chief Creative Officer is Eddy Moretti, Andrew Creighton is President, the editor-in-chief is Ellis Jones and Alex Miller is the global head of content. The monthly publication is frequently focused on a single theme.^ Launch refers to year where the first VICE-produced video was released on their respective YouTube channels.
^ In 2014, VICE Media took over the YouTube-funded channel The NOC, which was launched in 2012.
VICE News is the name of VICE Media's current affairs brand, consisting primarily of documentaries. It was created in December 2013 as a division of VICE Media, Inc. VICE News promotes itself on its coverage of events that may not be as well covered by other news sources. VICE News creates content daily, distributing written articles and video on its website and YouTube channel.
Viceland is a cable television network operated by VICE in partnership with A&E Networks in the U.S. and Rogers Media in Canada, primarily featuring documentary-style programs targeted toward millennials.
In 2013, HBO aired the first 10-episode season of a half-hour newsmagazine known as VICE, with Bill Maher as executive producer. The initial season saw international coverage for the season one finale that had VICE play an exhibition basketball game in North Korea with Dennis Rodman and the Harlem Globetrotters. The show was renewed for a second season, which aired in 2014 and won an Emmy award for Outstanding Informational Series or Special.
The show was picked up for two more 14-episode seasons by HBO in May 2014, which aired in 2015 and 2016.
In October 2016, a second Vice News program, a nightly news program called Vice News Tonight, premiered.
VICE Records or VICE Music is a record label founded in 2002. It has released albums and singles by the following artists through various major label distributors:
On December 8, 2014, 20th Century Fox and VICE Media launched VICE Films to finance, produce, distribute, market, and acquire narrative films.
VICE Films released the feature length rockumentary Heavy Metal in Baghdad in 2008, which follows the thrash metal band Acrassicauda in Iraq. The New York Times praised the production and reporting, calling it a "splendid feat of D.I.Y. reportage...Both a stirring testament to the plight of cultural expression in Baghdad and a striking report on the refugee scene in Syria, this rock-doc like no other electrifies its genre and redefines headbanging as an act of hard-core courage."
VICE Films had its first theatrical release White Lightnin' in 2009, and a documentary on professional bull riders, entitled The Ride, in 2010.
Swansea was featured in a television documentary "Swansea Love Story" as part of the Rule Britannia series on VBS.tv. The episode covers a heroin epidemic in the UK.
Reincarnated, a documentary film on Snoop Dogg's transformation into reggae artist and Rastafari Snoop Lion, was released in 2013.
Lil Bub & Friendz, a feature documentary about meme cats such as Grumpy Cat, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 18, 2013 and won the Tribeca Online Festival Best Feature Film.
In 2014, VICE produced and distributed all this mayhem follows the rise and fall of renown skateboarders Ben Pappas and Tas Pappas.
“Fishing Without Nets,” VICE Films’ first narrative feature, won Best Director for Cutter Hodeine at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. The film was released online in partnership with 20th Century Fox in October 2014.
The MTV series The VICE Guide to Everything, which premiered in December 2010, was a weekly news magazine featuring short video segments on various global issues, hosted by Shane Smith and roster of correspondents. The segments sought to cater to a younger audience with a more condensed, entertaining approach to the news.
VICE Media, through its magazine VICE, has published the collections The DOs and DON'Ts Book and The VICE Guide to Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll. In 2008, the photograph compilation The VICE Photo Book was released and featured published works from previous editions of the magazine.
VICE Media has steadily acquired media properties and firms in order to expand its global operations. In June 2016, at the Cannes Lions Awards, the company announced its planned expansion into over 50 countries, including partnerships with The Times of India Group and Moby that will see VICE enter the India and Middle East markets with digital, mobile, and linear operations. New Viceland channels have already launched in Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa. Since 2004, the company has acquired the following properties:
VICE acquired the Brooklyn-based digital agency, Carrot Creative in December 2013. The deal was reported to be worth U.S. $15 to $20 million in stock and cash.
Old Blue Last Pub
VICE runs a pub and music venue in Shoreditch, East London named The Old Blue Last, in which a live music program entitled "Live at the Old Blue Last" is filmed. After VICE bought the Old Blue Last in 2004, it underwent a series of improvements, with most taking place in 2010. Bands who have played at the venue include Arctic Monkeys, Midfield Workhorse, Amy Winehouse, Chromeo, Black Lips, and Florence + the Machine.
VICE integrated with the British fashion magazine i-D in December 2012, with VICE president Andrew Creighton calling it "one of the only fashion publications in the world we actually respect."
In 2015, VICE announced it invested an "undisclosed sum" in VRSE.farm, a virtual reality company founded by acclaimed director Chris Milk. The announcement came alongside a debut VR experience at the Sundance Festival, a "virtual-reality journalism broadcast" made in partnership with Spike Jonze and VICE News.
In March 2016, VICE acquired controlling stake in UK television and film production company Pulse Films, to bolster its original programming efforts. As of March 22, 2017, Pulse Films produces original content including the series Pillowtalk and Twiz and Tuck Bucket List for exclusive release on video.vice.com, VICE's digital video hub.
That same year in July, VICE acquired UK magazine Garage to expand it foothold in the youth market and plans to launched a television network focused on Art, Fashion and Literature.
On January 26, 2017, VICE announced the consolidation of its in-house agency Virtue with Carrot Creative, a digital and mobile agency VICE acquired in 2013, Pulse Films, a production company VICE acquired in 2016, and Starworks Group, a fashion and entertainment brand development agency VICE acquired in 2016, into the new “Virtue Worldwide.” Based in Brooklyn, New York, the combined 450-person global consultancy provides the services of a full agency network and multi-platform content creation studio. Virtue Worldwide will be led by CEO Lars Hemming Jorgensen.
Relying on these in-house and acquired agencies, apart from its editorial operations, VICE works with advertisers to create global ad campaigns tailored to the company's younger audience. The ads generate revenue from the production of the ad and placement within a given media property. VICE maintains the separation between the production of branded and hard news content, while some critics contend that their operation "blurs the line between editorial and sponsorship". This practice is sometimes referred to as "native advertising," due to how ads are often mingled with regular content. Co-founder Alvi has also said that VICE has had "franchises that were underwritten by sponsors - that's our goal, to get a lot of our news franchises and stories and reports sponsored by advertisers. It's kind of the way news used to be in the fifties: 'Brought to you by Gillette' or whatever it was. We love that model."
Some of the brands that VICE has worked with are Google, Unilever, Bank of America, Samsung, Toyota, Levi Strauss & Co. and Intel. However, some advertisers have been controversial; Edition Worldwide, a subsidiary of VICE UK, was called "highly irresponsible" by the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and other anti-smoking groups for their work producing content for tobacco giant Philip Morris International. This was seen as unethical by anti-tobacco groups due to the young audience which VICE News usually attracts.
In February 2016, staff members at VICE UK called for unionisation with an officially recognised trade union by the National Union of Journalists. Staff members said this was following the steps of VICE US (which unionised with the Writers Guild of America, East), in order to allow the staff to "share in the success of the company", to strengthen job security by VICE providing better contracts, to address "pay issues ... so everyone gets a fair deal, including freelancers" and enhance career progression opportunities.
This proposition was rejected by VICE UK; the company refused to recognise the National Union of Journalists but instead said that they were free to set up an internal staff council. VICE chief executive, Matt Elek, claimed the NUJ had displayed "a concerning lack of transparency from them about who they are purporting to represent here [and had] not been able to provide us with any numbers to demonstrate the degree of support they have in this office", adding that: "The NUJ are used to working with old print media businesses and structures – they are not used to innovative, digital workplaces like this where the culture has always been to encourage flexibility and allow people work across different departments."
The rejection is in contrast to the US, where journalists working for the digital operations of VICE, Gawker and the Guardian have all won union recognition. In response, Michelle Stanistreet (General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists) said:
The accusation that the NUJ has not been transparent in its discussions with VICE management is simply untrue. It's a shame that the company has proven so resistant to listening to its own staff and facilitating what they want – a collective voice at work. That the NUJ and its 30,000 members – including those at VICE – are not used to the reality of a digital workforce is laughable and shows it's the company who are out of date with 21st century trade unions. Rejecting calls for union recognition from their own journalists and then trying to fob them off with a Rupert Murdoch-style staff association is a pretty old-fashioned union-busting ruse that misses the point. NUJ officials and reps at VICE will continue with the push for recognition and if the company wants that to be gained through the law forcing their hand rather than through sensible engagement with their staff, so be it.
In July 2014, VICE Media announced it would be moving its headquarters to a new building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where their New York office had been since 1999. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the move would allow them to double their current office size and hire about 500 new employees.
Following this announcement, the two music venues occupying the building, Glasslands Gallery and Death By Audio, soon announced the news they would be closing. Following the announcement from Glasslands management in October 2014 that the arts venue would close at the end of 2014, thereby making it the third Williamsburg music space to close through VICE Media's expansion—alongside 285 Kent and Death By Audio—Big Shot Magazine claimed that the Brooklyn music community had received a "proverbial kick in the groin."
After a series of articles covering the venues' eviction, BrooklynVegan reported on the deals that led to VICE Media moving into the new office, including terms buying out tenants and covering past overdue rent, that contradicted some press around the renovation of the building and VICE Media's dealings with the current tenants. Regardless, as the article puts it, "The concept of 'VICE vs. DIY' in Williamsburg is officially a thing."