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February 23, 2024

Vice Media to lay off ‘several hundred’ staff and stop publishing on website

Staff do not yet know whether the website will remain live.

By Bron Maher

Vice Media Group is “eliminating several hundred positions” and halting publication on its website.

Chief executive Bruce Dixon wrote in a memo that it was “no longer cost-effective for us to distribute our digital content the way we have done previously.

“Moving forward, we will look to partner with established media companies to distribute our digital content, including news, on their global platforms, as we fully transition to a studio model.”

Dixon added that Vice will focus more effort on distributing content directly through its social channels.

Bruce Dixon’s note to staff announcing Vice layoffs and the end of Vice.com:

In its final days Vice.com appears to have been publishing between ten and 15 articles per day. The last three articles published to the site were product reviews.

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Dixon’s message to staff followed a chaotic few hours of Vice staffers publicly tweeting about rumours of an imminent shut down.

Some staff were apparently tipped off about the closure, but “a person familiar with the company” told The Hollywood Reporter that the revelation employees could no longer download data from the website in bulk was coincidental and linked to “a company wide security and data compliance update”.

Staff have not been informed whether Vice.com will remain online or if, like The Messenger, its content archives would be wiped from the web.

The closure of Vice.com comes less than a year after Vice Media Group made “painful but necessary” cuts and, a month later, declared bankruptcy.

In 2017 Vice Media was valued at nearly $6bn.

But the media group was weighed down with hundreds of millions of dollars in debt and struggled to establish a sustainable revenue model. It had been looking for a buyer in the run-up to its bankruptcy declaration, and was ultimately bought out of bankruptcy by its lenders, among them Fortress Investment Group, Soros Fund Management and Monroe Capital.

[Read more: Vice Media – from Murdoch money to bankruptcy in a decade]

Since then Vice News’ editor-in-chief, deputy editor, its SVP for global news and entertainment and one of its two co-chief executives have departed the business. A planned strike in the UK was called off in June after redundancy terms were significantly improved.

Vice’s troubles came to a head around the same time that Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti announced the shuttering of Pultizer-winning Buzzfeed News, and the double collapse has been interpreted by many in the news industry as symbolic of the end of the social media-driven, scale-focused era of digital news. This week saw Buzzfeed lay off a further 16% of its staff.

The Vice CEO statement suggests the brand will continue to operate on third-party platforms where it has a popular following.

Vice has nearly nine million followers on Youtube, nearly eight million subscribers on Snapchat, 1.5 million followers on Tiktok, three million followers on Instagram and 4.4 million followers on Facebook.

[Read more: Digital natives on the ropes – what next for online news publishers?]

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