The company’s digital group and Refinery29, which Vice acquired in 2019, are the divisions hit by the cuts, according to a person familiar with the restructuring. Vice News, which continues to invest in reporting across text and video, is unaffected. In all the number of departures represents less than 1% of the global editorial workforce.
In an internal memo obtained by Deadline (read it below), Chief Digital Officer Cory Haik touted Vice’s progress on YouTube views and also with the company’s efforts to expand globally. She announced a larger role for Cliff Gulibert, head of global Vice digital entertainment brands “across all formats and expressions.” Kate Lowenstein will now oversee the global text operation, reporting to Gulibert.
Toward the end of the memo, Haik added, “As part of this continued global alignment we’ve unfortunately had to say goodbye to some of our friends and colleagues today. We wish them well and thank them for their dedicated service over the years.”
In an apparently unrelated development today, real estate trade outlet The Real Deal reported that Vice will leave its longtime global headquarters building in Brooklyn. The low-slung building in formerly industrial Williamsburg became a beachhead for the neighborhood as it dramatically gentrified over the past 20 years. Vice won’t be going far. According to the report, the company will occupy several floors in Dock 72, a nearby office building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard being developed in part by WeWork.
Asked about the report, a Vice Media spokesperson told Deadline, “Vice has a current lease that expires in 2022 and does not have an agreement with any party at this time. Like all companies with an expiring lease, Vice is exploring all options for new office space while maintaining the best cost profile for our company.”
All of the changes come against a backdrop of an even more dramatic potential move, as Vice continues to pursue a SPAC merger and public stock offering. After the initial valuation for the entity was discussed at $3 billion (already a haircut compared with Vice’s peak north of $5 billion in the 2010s), the talks reportedly bogged down when some participants balked at the terms. A person familiar with the merger discussions told Deadline that the process is continuing.
Here is Haik’s full memo:
Dear, all —
You may remember back in summer 2019 our Global Digital Publishing business ‘went Global.’ This was to strengthen the way our teams work around the world, putting in place structures and systems that have allowed us to organize for growth and innovation. Today I’m happy to report, two years later, that we have many proof points that showcase our success:
VICE YouTube hit 14 million subscribers this year and broke its all time monthly view record in May with 87 million views and 8 million hours watched. For context, we had 37 million views in the summer of 2019. We’ve doubled our video audience and continue to surpass our competitors in watch time, pointing to success in our strategic shift to an engagement strategy. i-D has seen a 20 percent increase in traffic from the US, year over year, and continues to see strong growth across Asia with global expansion in China, Japan and Korea. Refinery29 has maintained its lead in 2021 on the engagement front against its competitive set, and Unbothered traffic is up more than 40 percent year over year, with Instagram up 90 percent during the same period.
Through this growth period, we also successfully integrated Refinery29 into our VMG publishing portfolio; seen the launch and strong growth of VICE World News on digital platforms; launched an instantly beloved commerce brand on VICE, Rec Room; built Stories Studio, a CMS of the future, putting it into our workflows and the hands of our journalists; and much more.
Each of our digital publishing brands have strength and authority in specific categories. Building off our proven engagement strategy for growth, and doubling-down on the areas we’ve permission to publish with authority, our path forward is to focus on building content for our digital communities in the native ways they consume it. That could mean through reading an article, watching a video, Stories interactions (by the way, congratulations to VICE Indonesia for hitting 1M subscribers on TikTok this week!), podcasts, shopping and more — we’re going to be intentional in serving these audiences and growing these communities in our own VMG way. Today we are announcing some organizational changes that are a continuation of our efforts to better connect teams across regions, in particular aligning our editorial vision and operations under global content leadership.
GLOBAL EDITORIAL ALIGNMENT
Cliff Gulibert, who has overseen our dynamic growth on YouTube, will expand his role to lead our global VICE digital entertainment brands, across all formats and expressions. Kate Lowenstein will now oversee the global text operation under Cliff.
Katie Drummond will continue to lead all of our VICE News digital brands globally, with the APAC digital teams now reporting into her as we continue to build on our successful launch last year of VICE World News.
Alex Miller will continue to oversee our EMEA video operation, continuing to fuel creative excellence across VICE News and digital.
Refinery29 leadership will continue under global EIC Simone Oliver, with the UK’s Effy Okogba now reporting into Simone, continuing to build out our strategic, editorially-driven partnerships, now globally. Tamar Riley will also now take on a global role under Simone, heading up audience growth and development.
As i-D continues to lead the way in connecting with youth audiences across native platforms, under Lucy Delacherois-Day, Elektra Kotsoni will continue to lead the i-D teams across the UK and US, now overseeing our newest offices in China, Japan and Korea.
As we look out over the next couple of years, the trends are clear: our audiences live in a 360 ‘surround sound’ media environment. What is undeniable is that youth audiences are gathering on visual Stories platforms and we need to be creating more content there as a healthy part of our mix and our growth.
For some of our brands, we know that text continues to be an engaging way to reach our audiences. For example, across our News brands we see consistent global growth on text articles as a way to reach and grow new audiences. Alternatively, our digital entertainment brands like NOISEY and MUNCHIES have had a remarkable increase in views and engagement through our visual platforms (YouTube, Instagram) but a precipitous decline in text consumption over the last few years, roughly 75 percent.
Overall our evolving approach to content on platforms has seen consistent growth. And with innovations such as Stories Studio, which now produces over 4,000 pieces of original content per month, our audience engagement is up 280 percent year over year for Stories. We’ve also seen a 50 percent year over year increase in ad revenue on our Stories offerings, of which we will be expanding as we look toward 2022 and beyond.
Olly Osborne will oversee our global publishing operation where he will be responsible for ensuring all of our brands have aligned strategies for meeting our growing communities across social platforms. He will work to ensure that our brands are best set up for success in producing for platform audiences, which means our content creation for these native formats will be moving closer to our brands and will be connected directly into our editorial teams.
GLOBAL SALES & COMMERCIAL ALIGNMENT
All commercial leadership will now report directly into Jesse Angelo, our Global President, and Luke Barnes will now take responsibility for all commercial teams outside of the US. Myki Slonim, who heads up the APAC commercial org, will now report to Luke. In the coming weeks and months, aspects of the commercial org will also be further globalized.
This structure will lead to better internal communication and workflows, results for our clients and more growth from our global partners and regional players. VMG is on pace to see a 40% year over year revenue growth in our global publishing business. Off of this momentum, the commercial leadership are working closely with Jesse, Nadja and the wider teams to build out the 2022 sales strategy over the coming months.
As part of this continued global alignment we’ve unfortunately had to say goodbye to some of our friends and colleagues today. We wish them well and thank them for their dedicated service over the years.
Some of you might have questions about these changes. Your division leadership will be reaching out to schedule team meetings in the next 24 hours, and your local HRBP will be available for any questions as well. I personally welcome any questions and will be holding office hours tomorrow for 1:1 conversations, as will your leadership.
Please help me congratulate everyone in their well-deserved positions. I am confident these talented teams will continue to propel our digital growth, meeting our audiences with the best that VICE Media group has to offer. A sincere thank you to each and every digital staffer. Your creative work continues to guide us and our audiences.