Vice Media Group plans to lay off hundreds of employees and stop publishing on its flagship news website, the company’s chief executive said in a memo to employees Thursday — a stunning setback for a digital media pioneer that ascended to cultural prominence more than a decade ago.

“It is no longer cost-effective for us to distribute our digital content the way we have done previously,” Vice CEO Bruce Dixon said in the memo, which was seen by NBC News. Vice Media did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment on Thursday’s news.

Dixon added that the company would now “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.”

Refinery29, the company’s women’s lifestyle brand, will continue to operate as a “standalone diversified digital publishing business,” Dixon said, though executives are in “advanced discussions to sell this business, and we are continuing with that process.” (Vice acquired Refinery29 in 2019.)

“With this strategic shift comes the need to realign our resources and streamline our overall operations at Vice,” Dixon wrote in the memo. “Regrettably, this means that we will be reducing our workforce, eliminating several hundred positions.” 

In the early 2010s, Vice was considered one of the hottest brands in digital media, known for its brash journalistic style and far-reaching commercial ambitions. In its heyday, coinciding with a period of low interest rates, Vice was an insurgent empire that included a news website, an entertainment studio, an HBO series, a cable TV channel and an in-house marketing agency.

The company’s cultural rise mirrored that of BuzzFeed and Vox, pointing to a future media landscape anchored by digital-first startups and millennial tastes. The news division was known for dispatching correspondents to countries such as Ukraine and Venezuela, where they reported on conflicts with a guerilla aesthetic that contrasted sharply with traditional TV news.

Vice’s leaders set out to supersede the old-guard corporate titans, though they eventually drew hundreds of millions in investment from legacy heavy-hitters such as Disney and Fox. 

The Brooklyn-based company struggled to turn a profit, however, and executives started laying off waves of employees and cut costs over the last few years. The company emerged from bankruptcy last year under a new owner, Fortress Investment Group, which reportedly failed to find a buyer for the embattled enterprise.

Vice is not the only media operation facing dire straits.

In recent months, amid a cratering advertising market and rising competition from platforms like TikTok, several news organizations have been hit by severe layoffs. The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, ABC News and BuzzFeed News are among the outlets that have cut staff members in the last year, stoking anxiety about the future of the industry.


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