BROADLY SPEAKING: Vice Media is starting a new chapter of expansion, following its September infusion of $500 million from minority investors, and it’s looking to an unlikely target for growth — women. Last week, the Brooklyn-based company said it hired Jezebel veteran Tracie Egan Morrissey to head up its new female-centric channel, Broadly — a new site that was her idea.
This story first appeared in the March 6, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Morrissey told WWD that she approached Vice cofounders Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi six months ago with her “special vision.”
It included speaking to women on issues in a very Vice way, which, for those not familiar, is part of the company’s “ethos,” Morrissey explained. For clarity, she added: “It’s smart done in a stupid way and stupid done in a smart way.”
The editor, who started at Jezebel when it launched in 2007, was (smartly) paraphrasing chief executive Smith, who relayed his company’s credo in a 2013 New Yorker profile as laid out by Vice magazine cofounder Gavin McInnes. (“McInnes told me, ‘My big thing was I want you to do stupid in a smart way and smart in a stupid way,’” Smith said). For Broadly, that mantra will translate to originally reported stories on political issues that include abortion, rape on college campuses and in the military, reproductive policy and other women’s issues.
“I don’t want to just focus on rape and abortion,” said Morrissey, catching herself. “Women aren’t just the consequence of sh—y sex that happens to them. We’re going to do humor pieces that harken back to the old days of Vice, but not in a raunchy way. We’re bringing back nuance.” (Not exactly a word associated with a site whose headlines on Thursday included “Tattooing Away the Pain” and “The Money Shot: Product Placement in Porn is Now a Thing.”)
Morrissey said Vice would fold in fashion and beauty coverage, but not from a product-centric stance (unless it’s talking about porn, presumably).
Although she didn’t elaborate how, she explained: “I would rather talk about people than things. The people who make the clothes, not the clothes, not the reviews of fashion week — it’s less on the product and more on the cultural implications.”
Broadly, which will debut at a yet-to-be determined date in the spring, is the fourth channel launch for Vice in 12 months. The three prior channels include News, Sports and Munchies, a food-centric site.
With Broadly, Vice continues on its path of “evolving” beyond a media company targeting testosterone-fueled young men. A spokesman was unable to provide a gender breakdown of audience by presstime, but he did not deny that Vice still serves a largely male viewership.
Although Vice frequently reports on gender issues on its site and in its HBO series, the media company is just now making a more overt grab for female followers. Case in point: recently, WWD learned that Vice, which owns British fashion title i-D, was in the process of expanding its presence in New York and Asia. This came shortly after Vice tapped Ellis Jones as the namesake magazine’s first female editor-in-chief in its 20-year history. Earlier this year, the company hired former White House deputy chief of staff Alyssa Mastromonaco as chief operating officer — a move that was viewed by many as a deliberate step to help transform its image.
The moves at Vice, the magazine, mirror a similar strategy at Maxim, which also has named its first female editor in chief, Kate Lanphear , as it attempts to reinvent itself from a lad mag filled with bodacious babes into a more “mature” title. The goal in both cases is to gain more upmarket advertising and perhaps capture the thirtysomething reader who deserted the titles as they grew up.