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How Vice is Gaining Ground on Major Media Outlets

Posted by Morgan Sims on March 21st, 2014 at 9:09 am

The Internet and social media have changed how we digest news. If a particular outlet isn’t covering a story, or covering it as fully as it could, people will get the information from other sources. The rejection of traditional media has left space for rising stars to keep Americans and global citizens alike informed. One of these rising stars is Vice. Let’s dig deeper into how this indie magazine turned global news source is conquering the media.

Mainstream News Sites are Underperforming

Turn on any morning news show and you’ll think you’re watching Good Morning America. Hard-hitting news like the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight are condensed into digestible sound bites and sandwiched next to stories about otters juggling stones and other viral videos. The goal is to entertain just as much as it is to deliver news.

This isn't what business professionals want, and this isn't what millennials want either. Vice has noticed this and recently launched an online news channel that has received strong praise for its Ukraine coverage. The difference between this channel and your average news network is that the stories next to it aren’t about who hosted SNL this week; they’re about South Sudan, life in Egypt, and other stories that aren’t as glamorous to cover. Countries still have to rebuild and pick up the pieces after the riots end, but few channels want to cover that.

This Change in Media is Natural

CEO Shane Smith has had a strong hand in Vice’s revolution, and will continue to mold and develop his project at it grows. For him, the rise of news outlets like Vice is only a natural response to our generation’s needs. In an interview with Charlie Rose, Smith said that generational changes are expected and perfectly normal, “It's a combination of Gen Y having a different language, and there being a sort of changing of the guard with digital and online content."

Smith approaches his demographic differently than most news moguls, addressing them as his “diamonds” and expressing his desire to grow with his “beautiful audience.” He has built Vice with the idea of creating a community that comes together to be informed and have open discussions rather than appease investors and woo advertisers. This mentality, along with Vice’s acquisition by 21st Century Fox, has put Smith on the radar as someone to watch.

What Does This Generational Change Look Like?

While previous generations roll their eyes at young people and say they’re the most lazy and stupid generation yet, Gen Y is actually incredibly informed. If a news channel is ignoring parts of the story or glossing over details, millennials will keep digging until they get the answers they want. News channels need to be transparent with their data and stories or they’ll lose the younger audience.

The fact that millennials want thoroughly covered stories also disproves the idea that they’re a Twitter and Instagram generation that can only handle 140 characters of information at a time.

For example, Generation Y doesn’t just want an update on the Russian presence in Crimea; it wants to know the history of Crimea, its ethnic make-up, why Russia is interested in the region, and who major political players involved are. It’s next to impossible to cover all of that in a Tweet.

Naturally, Technology Plays a Major Role

Vice has an excessively popular YouTube channel and its other social media outlets have a massive following. The next generation of news broadcasts won’t be filmed with bulky camera equipment, lighting experts, and large crews; instead, the news will be brought to you by one or two people, holding small cameras right in the middle of the event.

Vice recently doubled the size of its staff to 100 journalists, which means there are 100 people who can travel to 100 different places to give reports. This reach means there’s no stone unturned when it comes to keeping the audience updated on global events. The days of Walter Cronkite are ending, as viewers don’t care about the big name as much as they care about the content.

Of course, these 100 reporters can also share stories and go deeper than their reports on social media. After the camera turns off, a reporter in Venezuela or Ukraine can still interview protestors, families who are trying to survive the crisis, and anyone who's willing to give an opinion. They can also share their observations and take photos while they’re still in the country. The news really only turns off when the journalist puts down his or her phone or goes to sleep, which we all know journalists never do.

In this day and age, it’s better for a news station to have several reporters sharing and reporting around the world with handheld cameras and smartphones than one or two big names stuck in one or two locations.

Others Outlets are Bound to Follow

BuzzFeed is also trying to take a bite out of news and incorporate more hard-hitting stories. This may be an uphill battle for the website that's most known for cat reaction gifs and “Which Mean Girls Character Are You?” quizzes.

For now, Vice’s delivery of the news leaves it crushing the competition, forcing other channels to direct traffic and sources back to its network. However, Shane Smith’s prediction that this is a generational shift means that Vice will only be a novelty for so long. If he’s right, Vice will soon be the new normal for news delivery and other channels will develop similar tactics. Smith doesn’t seem to fear this change and what it means for his bottom line, but rather embraces the new age of enlightenment.

Smith wants to be the next CNN and has made great strides in the past year to catch up with traditional media. Whether he’s simply riding the wave of an inevitable change or strategically leading the way, in 10 years we’ll look back at Vice as a pioneer of Generation Y’s news revolution.

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