Vice isn’t the first big name in digital media to vanish from our screens, but the speed at which this company went from a multi-billion-dollar valuation to bankruptcy in just a few years has shone a spotlight on the sector as a whole. As a result, many budding media outlets are keen to avoid the grave errors that have resulted in this media and news organization, which spans over two dozen countries, filing for bankruptcy. How did it all unfold, and how did it happen so quickly? While it hasn’t happened out of thin air, it’s still a surprise to many that such a big name in the digital media landscape has hemorrhaged so much money in such a short period.
At one point in the mid-2010s, Vice was arguably the most extensive digital journalist media company on the internet: a 2017 valuation worth over $4 billion. Whenever a company with thousands of employees begins to slide into administration, the most predictable and obvious place to start is with the top people overseeing the company’s day-to-day activity. In 2015, the CEO Shane Smith won big in a casino in Las Vegas, allegedly scooping over $1 million in prizes.
He allegedly spent $330,000 of this on a dinner in the Bellagio. While Vegas is known for its high-roller gamblers and extravagant expenditure, maybe this was a symptom of the grandiose financial mismanagement that will now define Vice’s final legacy as a badly run business.
The casino industry, similar to Vice, used digital platforms as a springboard to promote their services. Vice also branched out into game and movie reviews and has reviewed games such as Counter-Strike, helping them reach a broader audience of Vice readers. You can now use the internet to play Counter-Strike and gamble on professional eSports teams that compete in Counter-Strike tournaments via https://thunderpick.io/en/esports/csgo, and other casino games.
The casino industry has also continued to embrace the perks of online and reaped the rewards, in the same way, that Counter-Strike has embraced online competition. However, Vice attempted to drift away from digital media and expanded aggressively through large buyouts in the more traditional sector, which started to bleed the company financially. They may have given themselves a better chance if they’d followed a more digital-first model like casino companies.
There were a lot of things that Vice Media did exceptionally well following its launch in 2013. The company had been around for 30 years before it hit financial turmoil. It initially began as a punk magazine in Canada in 1994. Still, it soon expanded into overseas territory, riding the curtails of the internet boom in the early 21st Century to establish a presence online.
Embracing change instead of resisting it is a vital facet that allowed companies like Vice to leap over their competition fearlessly. Their daring and raw journalism, combined with an intelligent utilization of social media, soon grew their social media pages into millions of followers during a time when millions were a much bigger deal than it is now. But as with everything in the digital world, media companies too can gain quick popularity and can lose it rapidly.
However, the deviation away from this and into a digital media organization aimed at a younger audience with thought-provoking investigative journalism started to strike a chord. The company soon had a fanbase loyal to all its content, and it branched out into other forms of media successfully, such as TV and podcasting. The organization pieced together some fascinating documentaries which swept up highly revered awards in the media world, such as Emmy and Peabody awards.
It appeared as though a new 21st Century media dynasty was on the cusp of breaking into the mainstream, and with significant investments coming in from Rupert Murdoch and The Walt Disney Company, Vice was starting to rub shoulders with the biggest and most well-recognized names in the entire global media industry.
Following a string of high-profile incidents that brought the company into disrepute, and a staggered and unclear long-term strategy for the future, numbers started to dwindle. However, Vice was one of the market leaders when it first launched. Throughout the mid-2010s, many more similar outlets followed a similar path and started eating into Vice’s market of the portion.
By 2019, the company was spiraling down; they announced layoffs, and although it was framed as a more significant problem within the industry, and to some extent it was, Vice was clearly in a lot more trouble than initially thought. A few months later, following the colossal investment a few years earlier, Disney declared their 9-figure investment worthless and wrote it off.
More details about this collapse will inevitably come out over the next few weeks as the consortium that has come in and hoovered up the scraps of the company look to piece together the wreckage to sell off any remaining profitable areas. It’s a tragic and sorry end for a company that looked in a prime position to become a global household name in the world of media and news just five or six years ago.
However, one thing that this does highlight is just how competitive the online space is. Even if you manage to navigate a road to the top of the tower, you need to invent and innovate to stay up at the top of the industry, and just a few wrong investment moves can cause the entire thing to collapse like a house of cards.