Source Spotlight: VICE
There’s no other publication quite like VICE—from its bold tone to its diverse subject matter (no topic is too taboo), the magazine-turned-media-powerhouse continues to shape popular culture.
We’re excited to offer VICE in the Pulse catalog; add it from the What’s New and Lifestyle categories now. We sat down with their team to learn more about the groundbreaking company: how it’s different, how it’s evolved, and how it stays fresh.
How is VICE different from other publications?
VICE stands out because we cover a wider variety of topics than almost any other publication; we feature original reporting from all over the globe, cutting-edge fashion shoots, music reviews, contemporary fiction, documentaries on everything from war zones to skateboarding to New York City’s best chefs, and opinion pieces on topics as diverse as politics and strip clubs. The diversity of our content allows our audience to watch videos of Syria’s civil war, read our Guide to Dating Rich Girls, get a firsthand account of what it’s like to take acid at the Westminster Dog Show, and check out our famed DOs & DON’Ts street fashion photos all in the same place. All of it is uncensored, opinionated, and authentic—we don’t bullshit around, and that’s what’s made us so popular among young people, who can smell bullshit a mile away.
We were early adopters of online video, launching a free online video site in 2006, and since then we’ve grown to become one of the leaders in the field—we produce a wide variety of top-shelf documentary content that we still distribute for free. That’s led to a partnership with CNN, a show on MTV, and a forthcoming show on HBO.
VICE has been groundbreaking (in both style and content) since the very beginning. How did it come to be the publication we know and love? How has VICE evolved over the course of its history?
VICE Media began in 1994 as a tiny independent Canadian magazine. The magazine still exists, but in the last decade, the focus of the business has shifted online, where we post a mix of video documentaries, lighthearted features, reported pieces, photography, and more. And everything we put in the magazine finds its way online, of course.
Our focus on free, high-quality video content was a big part of the evolution of VICE Media, but equally important to our growth has been the broadening in the topics we’re covering. VICE in the early years was focused on sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. We were the magazine of Terry Richardson and “experiments” to see whether girls or guys gave better head. It’s not that we’ve completely abandoned those early ideals; Richardson continues to be a prolific contributor for us—but we’ve grown up a bit and started to see ourselves as competing with the biggest and best publications and news websites out there, not as a magazine you’d have to hide from your parents when they visited your dorm.
Lastly, our increase in size and global expansion has opened up a lot of doors and allowed us to do stuff we weren’t capable of in the early years. There are now offices in 34 countries producing tremendous amounts of content everyday. We launched a tech vertical in 2009 called Motherboard, an arts technology vertical in 2010 called the Creators Project, a music vertical named Noisey in 2011, and, most recently, Fightland which focuses on the culture surrounding the world of mixed martial arts.
How has VICE incorporated changes in technology and media?
We’ve tried our best to move in conjunction with our audience, so as they all started going online, we followed suit. It wasn’t necessarily a full-blown strategy at the time, as much as it just made sense to position our content where our audience was. We were really early in the online video space, so that has positioned us well as other media outlets scramble to figure out their strategy surrounding online video.
In terms of technology, the Creators Project has really been the driver within the VICE umbrella. For the last two years, they’ve curated events in New York, San Francisco, Paris, Lyon, Seoul, Sao Paulo, and Beijing where they bring together some of the world’s most innovative artists who’re using technology to push the boundaries of creativity, and thrown three-day events with installations, performances, and interactive displays.
What’s your process for coming up with stories? How do you keep content fresh?
We draw on an extensive network of contributors, both staff members and freelancers, who are constantly sending us pitches from all over the world. The great thing about all the topics we cover is that we can publish stories about pretty much anything in the world—almost nothing is too niche or too NSFW or too bizarre for us to touch. The problem isn’t finding ideas, it’s weeding through all of the great ideas we have, which is where our editors and video producers come in—all of them are young, hungry, immensely talented people who have amazingly diverse interests. As for keeping content fresh, we try to keep to two simple rules: Don’t do the same thing twice, and don’t do what anyone else has already done.
And, drumroll, please…What are Vice’s favorite pieces of 2012?