Vice magazine is going global – but can it keep its edge?
It’s a story to warm the cockles of every would-be media mogul’s heart. Yes, Dorothy, there is still cash to be made from magazines.
Of course, Vice magazine is no longer just a magazine. What began as a free publication in Montreal in 1994 is now a multiheaded beast with a TV station, record label, publishing imprint, a London boozer (The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch) and other fingers in other pies.
The magazine is still part of the mix, and it’s still free, irreverent, sarcastic and hugely entertaining – but it’s now a publication with different editions in dozens of countries worldwide.
This week, the people at Vice announced their intention to move to the next level when they tapped some high-profile investors for large wodges of cash. New investors in Vice Media
include advertising group WPP, MTV founder Tom Freston and private equity group the Raine Group. As we like to say in Tipperary, Vice is playing senior hurling now.
Vice will use the cash to set up shop in emerging markets such as China, India and Brazil, as well as to augment its existing sports and news operations.
It will be interesting to see how Vice 2.0 balances honouring commitments to its funders (who will want to see a return on their money) and maintaining the magazine’s underground appeal. Fans and followers will be quick to cry foul if Vice loses its edge or begins to follow the easy money by jumping into bed with big brands and labels.
But those investors surely know that they’re not latching on to some vehicle that will quickly and willingly change course to make money. Vice has made it this far and attracted this much attention because it has been true to itself. And that’s the biggest lesson for all Vice wannabes.