Vice commences 'masterbrand' strategy, folding standalone Waypoint and Broadly brands

Vice begins consolidating media verticals

Vice has started consolidating and rebranding its media verticals under Vice, folding the standalone Tonic, Noisey, Waypoint and Broadly brands. The digital media company aims to boost site traffic and cross-pollinate readers across these once distinct and separate sections.

In 2018 Vice Media missed its revenue goals and then months later cut staff by 10%, around 250 people. That week in February also saw significant cuts from BuzzFeed. To combat the deficit, Vice will rally these sub-brands around Vice without any significant staff cuts, consolidating those who made it through the February redundancies.

Female-facing Broadly, health-vertical Tonic, Waypoint (gaming), Amuse (travel), Free (money) and Vice Sports will be absorbed. Motherboard, Munchies, Vice News and Noisey will live on Vice – but will retain their brand identities.

After years of broad expansion into numerous topic areas, Vice is bringing its sub-brands home to organise its output more simply across news, tech, music, food, health, drugs, identity, games, entertainment, money, environment, travel, horoscopes and sex. Many of these categories will be populated by former sub-brands.

Doug Jossem, Vice’s North America chief revenue officer, previously said the consolidation would make it “easier” for consumers to navigate the sub-brands.

Vice told The Drum: "We’re bringing together the best of Vice's coverage from across the ecosystem to unify and strengthen our offering to people. We’ve listened to our audience and found that they like to read a broad variety of our content and therefore we’ll be launching a new website that brings all of our reporting under one roof. We will still, of course, cover all the same topics and themes that our different verticals have done - it will just sit within one Vice masterbrand site.”

Broadly was launched in 2015 as a women’s interest channel, and honed in on gender and identity themes. It will now be known as Vice Identity. Its editor in chief Linsday Schrupp, said: “We’re so grateful to everyone who helped build Broadly, and we look forward to expanding all of this coverage—and introducing it to new audiences—on Vice.com.”

There was a concern that Broadly would lose its queer edge as part of Vice.

Tonic launched in 2016. Now its editor-in-chief Kate Lowenstein said the team will continue to cover health, sex, drugs and identity as part of Vice, themes already closely aligned with Vice's core offering. She said: “We're still totally into talking about how to be healthier, and about the forces that prevent us from doing so, whether they be social, political, economic, or just our damn selves getting in our own way. But now we're excited to be doing it all as an integral part of Vice.”

Additionally, Waypoint has rebranded as Vice Games, three years after launching. Editor-in-chief Austin Walker spun it as a positive. “We now have an even deeper bench of writers, critics, and reporters; people who love games and are as excited as we are to dig into the culture that surrounds them.”

Vice’s Union issued a statement on Twitter. “We urge Vice management to, at the very least, keep the spirits of these publications alive through these workers.”

Jonathan Harrison, digital lead at the7stars, said: "The consolidation looks to be a sensible approach to aggregating the value of the smaller brands under the Vice umbrella while maintaining the tone of voice which Vice is known for and arguably became lost under multiple content strands. For advertisers and agencies this move will undoubtedly make the media opportunities more accessible at scale. Navigating a number of different brands with individual values and voices was never the easiest to buy, however, there is clear value in the trusted environments and an engaged audience is invaluable when looking for attention in the online space.

"Another positive to this is the release of previously blocked content – keywords such as ‘LGBTQ’, ‘climate change’ and ‘refugee’ – as advertisers appearing on Vice should be better prepared for appearing against such content that is willing to talk about issues its readers care about. Vice taking a stand against blanket blacklist terms suggests they’re much more confident about brand safety on their content than most other publishers."

He added: "The consolidation may still have its drawbacks, however. In certain categories, such as Gaming, Vice has an audience which may well only visit for specific content. Pushing some of their individual brands under the single Vice umbrella, may well be to the detriment of its niche readers, those who have bought into the vertical content without buying into the Vice brand. Although I’m sure navigation will be made simple, Vice will do well to keep these users engaged and hope to open them up to their wider journalism."

BuzzFeed's founder Jonah Peretti last year floated the notion that a merger with digital media peers like Vice, Vox Media, Group Nine and Refinery could reduce the heat on publishers. Less than a week ago, Vox Media merged with Recode to form Recode by Vox. It remains to be seen whether these consolidating entities will cross borders to work with other publishers.

Fashion vertical i-D survived the chop and today announced the return of Alastair McKimm, who will become global editor-in-chief. Founded in 1980 and later acquired by Vice, i-D has also appointed Lucy Delacherois-Day as the new publisher of the global brand. She has been promoted from commercial director where she led commercial operations for i-D and Garage.

Additionally, it has launched a new vertical called Change Incorporated. The channel's first mission is to get people in the UK to quit smoking cigarettes for good. The campaign is, conversely, funded by tobacco giant, Philip Morris International.

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