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How VICE transformed from a free, punk magazine to a digital powerhouse

At the first day of the INMA European Media Conference in Budapest, Hungary, Dan Miller, director/communications and strategy Europe at VICE Media, outlined the media company’s transformation from print to digital, sharing the secrets behind how VICE’s content appeals to an international audience of young people.
Vice started 21 years ago in Montraeal, Canada, as a free punk magazine for young people. Today, it is a leading youth media company, reaching more than 200 million people globally each month by covering every aspect of youth culture.
Everything VICE did and is still doing is storytelling, Miller says. It’s not only how VICE speaks to young people, but also how it thinks of them. 
Ten years ago, the Internet was seen as a dumping ground for content that wouldn’t fit elsewhere. But VICE didn’t buy into that, Miller says. The media company saw appetite for long-form journalism and international current affairs.
One of its first stories published online was “Heavy Metal in Baghdad.” After some time, VICE writers tracked the band again and made a 90-minute video documentary about the group.

VICE set up bureaus internationally as a content production offices: “This helps being able to send journalists to the heart of the stories,” Miller says.
Authenticity matters for VICE and is the key of each story in VICE, according to Miller. Each story must be honest and authentic. If the approach is right, and the storytelling is interesting, the results can be powerful:
VICE’s track record on YouTube shows that strategy is working:
  • 2.5 billion views.
  • 13 million subscribers.

  • Top 1% highest watch time across all YouTube original channels. 
VICE is close to its audience, Miller says. Representatives for the media company went out to the public and asked the audience what would they like VICE news channel to be like. The company learned a lot: 85% of the responders were unhappy with news sources and 82% were interested in world news. They also learned young people don’t consume news like their parents.
VICE spends a lot of time forming strategic partners with leading Millenial platforms, Miller explained: Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Tumblr, Apple Music. “You have to be where your audience is,” he says. “Think harder how to engage the next generation of news.”
What has VICE learnt so far:

  • Listen to your audience.

  • Quality and authenticity are the most important metrics.
  • Content has to travel.
  • Treat Internet with respect.
  • Be brave.

About Marek Miller

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