VICE: From YouTube to Unicorn

Vice Media LLC has made a name for itself in the journalism world by doing stories traditional outlets wouldn’t dare touch with a video-first gonzo storytelling style. Since their humble beginnings in 1994 as an alternative media outlet based in Vancouver, Canada, Vice has taken the media world by storm and grown to a juggernaut valued at an estimated $4.5B with close to one thousand employees on the payroll.

YouTube was their original bread and butter publishing platform, and it remains a large component of their presence today. Vice, as its name suggests, covers edgy topics that have captivated their millennial audience. They currently boast over 7.3M subscribers on their main YouTube channel with some of their top videos like “World’s Scariest Drug,” “Suicide Forest in Japan,” and “The Cannibal Warlords of Liberia” all eclipsing 10M views. They also have over a dozen niche channels under their main on the YouTube platform ranging from news to food to music and more. This niche model is one of the largest triumphs of Vice’s business as it allows them to micro-target their already very targeted audience and fluidly navigate many different verticals without losing their core image.

Vice isn’t simply a dynamic and popular YouTube channel conglomerate. They partnered up with HBO for a documentary series that’s been running since 2013, and their website is the 66th ranked website in the U.S. The site is packed with articles about world events, pop culture, and just downright weird and interesting things, all of which are written in a style and voice that is uniquely Vice. Similar to their YouTube channel model, they have niched their content down on many different websites within the conglomerate, again increasing their ability to effectively target and understand the specific audiences they cater to, and this has caught investors attention. To date Vice has raised $770M, $700M of which have come in just the last two years. With all that cash in hand, Vice is expanding their scope even further — recently launching their own television channel called Viceland which is filled with original series such as “F**k, that’s Delicious” and “Weediquette.” The consensus isn’t in as to whether this particular play will be successful, but Vice’s history and large recent investments paint a positive picture.

The next couple years will be crucial for Vice to prove their staying power and prove that they’re not just an overhyped and overfunded startup from the days of inflated valuations and loose capital. Their base of millennials is aging and there’s worry that they’re growing up and out of Vice, and considering they haven’t captured Generation Z with the same velocity Vice may struggle in years to come.


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