Staff Reporters
Feb 26, 2024

Vice Media to lay off hundreds, cease website operations

With previous attempts to cut costs—including a multimillion-dollar acquisition—proving ineffective in enhancing the company's financial standing, Vice Media has announced its decision to lay off hundreds of staff and close down its website.

Vice Media to lay off hundreds, cease website operations

Global digital media and broadcasting company Vice Media is set to undergo staff layoffs affecting several hundred employees, accompanied by the discontinuation of content publication on its Vice.com website. This decision, communicated in a memo from Bruce Dixon, CEO of Vice Media, was announced last Friday (23 February).

Known for its focus on edgy and alternative content, Vice was established in 1994 as a punk magazine in Montreal, Canada. Over the past three decades, it has transformed into a multimedia platform addressing diverse subjects such as news, culture, arts, music, technology, and lifestyle. The company creates documentaries, news segments, and online content, frequently delving into unconventional and underreported stories, as well as encompasses a website, television programs, and collaborations with other media outlets.

At the peak of its boom in 2017, Vice was reported to be valued at $5.7 billion, with approximately 1,000 employees worldwide. Today, it's likely to fetch under $1 billion on the market. In Asia Pacific, Vice operates in Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Pakistan, India, Australia and Japan. Campaign understands staff in these offices have been impacted, though the exact number of people affected by the layoffs remains unclear. 

"As we navigate the ever-evolving business landscape, we need to adapt and best align our strategies to be more competitive in the long term. After careful consideration and discussion with the board, we have decided to make some fundamental changes to our strategic vision at Vice," wrote Dixon in the memo issued to staff.

"We create and produce outstanding original content true to the Vice brand. However, it is no longer cost-effective for us to distribute our digital content the way we have done previously," he continued. 

Dixon also noted that with the "strategic shift comes the need to realign our resources and streamline our overall operations", resulting in the reduction of the workforce and saying goodbye to "valued colleagues." He outlined that Vice's women's lifestyle site, Refinery29, will persist as an independent entity, with ongoing discussions about its sale to be announced in coming weeks. 

This latest round of layoffs comes after Vice was rescued from bankruptcy in June 2023 through its $350 million acquisition by Fortress Investment Group, following years of financial challenges, the departure of top executives, and previous attempts by the company to sell itself.

During that period, it was also noted that programmatic ad-blocking exerted substantial pressure on Vice's advertising revenue. This challenge was exacerbated by the broader industry's shift towards brand safety, frequently categorising Vice's content as 'not brand-safe,' thereby limiting potential programmatic advertising earnings.

The situation reflects a critical challenge for digital media entities: Balancing compelling and often provocative content, with the brand safety concerns of advertisers. Vice's struggles are not isolated, as the media sector has witnessed a significant series of layoffs and closures as the tides of digitisation continue to shift.

CNN Philippines recently announced its closure after years of financial losses, sending shockwaves through its emphasis of the harsh economic realities for media operations dependent on advertising revenues in competitive markets.  

Similarly, Business Insider also announced layoffs last month, cutting up to 8% of its staff as part of a restructruing exercise attributed to recalibrating its focus towards core audience engagement amidst reduced advertiser spending. 

Finally, The Wall Street Journal and Time Magazine have also navigated choppy waters, with the latter laying off a significant portion of its workforce, including the team at TIME for Kids. 

Note: A check by Campaign shows that the Vice website is still running, but the site has not been updated with Asia-related content since December 2023. Vice Media did not respond to queries from Campaign.

Source:
Campaign Asia

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