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Vice Media Is Basically Dead

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Vice Media CEO Bruce Dixon.
Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos: Courtesy of Vice, Getty

A rumor on Thursday morning frightened many journalists who had written for Vice Media: Thousands of stories written over the past two decades could soon be deleted without any warning. Inside the irreverent company, which began as a scabrous print magazine in Montreal and later helped define the tone of early digital media, the mood was tense. According to the Hollywood Reporter, editors asked top brass for an answer — or at least a denial of the rumor — and did not hear back.

Hours later, staffers found out why. In a message to staff, CEO Bruce Dixon said that several hundred of Vice’s remaining 900 employees will soon be laid off in a restructuring that essentially kills off the editorial brand.

After the mass layoff, Vice will still exist, kind of. No more stories will be published on Vice.com. But Dixon wrote, rather cryptically, that remaining employees will put “more emphasis on our social channels as we accelerate our discussion with partners to take our content to where it will be viewed most broadly.” According to a source familiar with the plans who spoke to The Wall Street Journal, that means Vice will “focus on growing its business-to-business media arm, including its production studio and creative agency.” Refinery 29, which Vice bought for $400 million in 2019, will continue to operate as Vice tries to sell the brand. Dixon also said that “affected employees” will be informed of their status next week.

On Friday morning, per Semafor’s Max Tani, Vice’s Director of Strategic Initiatives and Operations sent a vaguely worded email saying that “Vice is here to stay” and that its website will continue to exist, but but in “smaller and mightier” form, with “video, culture and entertainment video producers making content for all social video platforms.”

The layoffs are a dramatic denouement for a company that once boasted a valuation of $5.7 billion. As ad revenue decreased across the industry, Vice took several hard hits. After filing for bankruptcy last May, the brand was bought by the private-equity lenders Fortress Investment Group and Soros Fund Management for a mere $350 million. Since then, Vice has shuttered some of its marquee TV shows and has struggled to become profitable. It’s hardly alone: Other digital media companies, including BuzzFeed, The Messenger, and Jezebel, have either shuttered entirely or faced significant layoffs in recent months.



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