The Future of Vice Looks Female in New Merger with Refinery29

With edgy, provocative content Vice Media has always been able to connect with their audience of alternative punk rockers. What started as a Canadian-American print magazine from the 1994, Vice has transformed into its own private company. With different divisions such websites, broadcasting news, film production, and even a record label, Vice has plenty of room to reach a variety of audience members, but lately they just haven’t been hitting it off with the ladies.

Former CEO Shane Smith

It was back in March 2018 that (now former) CEO, Shane Smith, declared he would be resigning from his position and handing it over to someone else. The decision came after an article from the New York Times detailed multiple accounts of sexual harassment and inappropriate workplace conduct. Smith handed his position over to Nancy Dubuc, at the time a CEO of A&E Network, and a partner who helped launch the 24-hour television show, Viceland.

CEO Nancy Dubuc & Executive Chairman Shane Smith

When Smith is faced with the question, “Why Nancy Dubuc?” he has more than one reason to give. “First off, she is better than me at everything. Secondly, it allows me to move to Executive Chairman, where I can concentrate on the only things I am good at… Lastly, I get to work with one of my best friends and media hero.” he is quoted in a Tom Kludt article published by CNN.

The switch of CEO’s came at a trying time for Vice Media. In addition to the allegations, the company had already missed their target revenue for the 2017 year by $100 million dollars. Over the course of 2018 Vice’s ratings, views, and revenue kept dropping…and a big Vice investor was soon to follow.

Disney and A&E made a $250 million investment in August 2014, giving them a blended 21% stake in the company. Disney itself also gained an additional 6% stake when it bought 21st Century Fox back in March 2019. In May of this year, Disney made the decision to write off Vice in the midst of its ongoing troubles. The $353 million charge is the second, and now last, time Disney took a hit on their investment.

With bad rating and low revenue, it was time for Vice to look at what audience they weren’t reaching. With all provocative, edgy content Vice has become a male dominated audience, lacking the attention of females globally. To boost the ratings, build the revenue, and grow the audience, Vice Media has decided to merge with the media company Refinery29.

Women of Refinery29

Refinery29 is an entertainment and digital media company that focuses on young women. With a global audience of around 250 million, Refinery29 emphasizes the importance of diverse storytelling with fresh perspectives. Their mission statement reads- “Refinery29 is a catalyst for women to feel, see, and claim their power.”

Some of Refinery29’s most notable projects include Shatterbox, a short film series that is dedicated to increasing opportunities for women in film. 67% was a campaign they launched to bring more and better representation to plus sized women, 67% being the number of women who wear a size 14 and higher.

The merger comes in at a $400 million deal. It also ends the 15-year run that Refinery29 had as a privately-owned company. This isn’t the first merger of competing media companies. Just a month ago we saw the merger of Vox Media and New York Magazine, and just this past week there was confirmation of Group Nine acquiring PopSugar. These mergers are becoming more common as media groups try to take down the domination Facebook and Google, who are responsible for hogging over 60% of web ad revenue.

Nancy Dubuc seems to be in high spirits and believes this deal could help not only reach their revenue goals but help them make up for lost in the past as well. Some fear that the merger could be the death of Refinery29, with comments like “misogyny and feminism won’t mix.”

So what do you think? Will Vice start working towards content catered to a more female heavy audience, or do you think they will just use the deal to keep pushing their original content?

-Kirsten Mull

One thought on “The Future of Vice Looks Female in New Merger with Refinery29

  1. I found this article troubling in a sense, I have always dreamed about working for Vice Media but looking into the company and seeing the various issues going on, mostly towards women, is conflicting. I do still believe they are a good company which puts out amazing content. Seeing that they realized they need a more diverse reach and are aiming at that with this merge gives me more hope they will become more inclusive inside the workplace and towards their audience.

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