Vice Media

Vice seems to be turning over a new leaf.

No, its dedication to weed isn’t going anywhere, it’s even created a Museum of Weed set to open soon in Los Angeles, but there was a lot of grown-up talk at this year’s NewFront presentation about “trust,” being “brand safe” and “control” over content. All incongruous for an outlet that made its name on being an edgy alt destination and one that under cofounder and former chief executive officer Shane Smith had a reputation for bro-y hipster culture. Smith was at the presentation, but didn’t speak.

But new ceo Nancy Dubuc, not yet a year into the job, said, “It feels like a new beginning every day at Vice.” She meant it as a positive.

Dubuc also addressed some popular industry sentiment that she came to Vice to bring more structure and smooth out the edges left with Smith at the helm. She said she indeed came to Vice because of Smith, whom she cloying referred to as “Poppa Shane,” and because of the “passionate, purposeful, creative storytelling” at Vice.

“It has nothing to do with adult supervision,” she added.

Nonetheless, Vice talked up some business decisions one could characterize as “mature,” something TPG, Vice’s largest investor — the one that in 2017 gave it $450 million — probably appreciated.

First, there’s a full redesign of the web site and the folding of individual verticals Broadly, Noisey and Tonic (little surprise since these were the target of layoffs earlier this year), their subjects to be taken up by subject tabs under the main page, like News, Identity, Entertainment, Music, Food, Tech, Games, Health and Drugs.

Don Delport, Vice’s president of international for the last year, said the now-defunct verticals were “hard to discover, hard to go from one site to another.” Now, that’s easier, as are ad buys for brands. There’s also the launch of Vice Stories, a “highly immersive” page for video that Delport said “has new advertising opportunities.”

But Delport got more animated in talking about trying to bring a new level of transparency to Vice in order to “deliver to brand safety.” He argued that measurement companies like comScore and Nielsen “no longer accurately represent” the company’s audience. He cited a discrepancy in numbers — comScore said Vice had 40 million uniques in March, Nielsen said 56 million — and that they don’t take social into account. So Vice has been working directly with Google, Facebook and Snapchat to “build a more holistic” audience measurement, and Delport argued that based on their data, Vice reaches more than 300 million people a month. The breakdown is 124 million in North America, 104 million in Europe, Middle East and Africa, 34 million in Latin America, and 38 million in Asia-Pacific.

In another effort to pump up brand safety, Delport said Vice, starting May 15, will no longer host any aggregated or third-party content on its site, which it, like many other web sites, uses to boost traffic, admitting that monthly visitors will inevitably go down.

“We own all of the content and it’s integral we have control of our audience,” Delport said. “Our comScore number will drop and we don’t care.”

But Vice’s new focus on being “brand safe” does present some real issues with its focus on Millennial and increasingly Gen Z “woke” culture. The company brought up the rarely discussed circulation of words and terms marketers and brands demand not be included in any content their ads come up against. According to Vice, common on such a marketer “keyword blacklists” are gay, pregnant, LGTBQ, hijab, global warming, immigrant, Asian, Christian, Muslim, refugee and 15 more that are along these lines. Vice said it simply would not block these 25 words any longer.

“Our goal is to deliver on brand safety,” Cavel Kahn, vice president of client partnerships, said, “but to do so in a way where we’re not creating bias.”

Vice did bring some irreverence to the presentation. It invited Andy King, one of the planners behind the now infamous Fyre Festival, to talk up Vice Studios, which produced the Netflix documentary about the festival that featured some colorful recollections from King. His presence could have been a sign that there’s something more in the works with Vice, however, as King has said he’s got a TV deal in consideration. If it doesn’t work out though, he made sure to offer up his services to the crowd.

“If any of you are interested in throwing a little festival on an island, I know a guy.”

For More, See:

Hulu Touts Major Stars, Verizon Media Shifts ‘Intention’ at NewFronts

Condé Nast Says Its Video Is ‘New Prime Time’ TV

Viacom, Twitter Discuss Youth Access and ‘Stans’ at NewFronts

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