Vice Media Layoffs Underscore Industry Trend Toward Video

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By Jaclyn Diaz

Editorial and other employees at Vice Media were handed pink slips last week as the company moves to expand its global video production brand.

The Brooklyn-based digital media and broadcasting company is just the latest news organization to move more toward video content. MTV News, Fox Sports, and ESPN also laid off workers this year as part of a move away from long-form content and toward original video production.

The use of video is an increasing focus for major media companies and other brands, Sam Slaughter, vice president of content for Contently, said. Contently is a New York City-based technology company that helps brands create and manage content.

“The shift is real and pronounced, and it’s not going away,” he told Bloomberg BNA July 24.

The use of video has been a core part of its business since 2006. It has since launched Vice News on HBO and Viceland, a TV channel, in multiple markets.

Dozens Laid Off

The Writers Guild of America East was notified July 21 that 14 of its members at Vice were laid off. Some 60 workers in total, roughly 2 percent of Vice’s 3,000 employees, were laid off from editorial, sales, and other departments.

Elsewhere, ESPN announced in April that 100 anchors, reporters, and production staffers would be laid off. In June, MTV News announced it was restructuring to focus on video to reach a younger audience and parted ways with about a dozen journalists and freelancers. Fox Sports also announced it would lay off about 20 writers and editors to shift to a video-only model.

The New York Times is in the process of cutting its copy editing staff from 110 workers to about 50. Editors are being offered voluntary buyouts and are going through a rehiring process at the paper. If they don’t either accept buyout offers or get rehired, the editors could be facing layoffs. The paper’s management said it will be able to hire more than 100 more journalists with this move.

Why Video?

Contently’s clients, both media organizations and Fortune 500 brands, are looking to shift their advertising and brand content to include video production, Slaughter said. The number of clients looking to include video has “probably doubled year after year.”

Companies are interested in finding out what video can do for their brands, and smaller companies are taking their cues from larger media companies, he said.

“If the New York Times is leaning toward video, than that’s what they’ll do, although it takes time,” Slaughter said.

Media organizations need to switch to video content in the interest of making money, he said.

Text banner ads on the side of a webpage can be blocked by ad-blocking programs. But a short video played before a site’s actual content slips under the radar, Slaughter said. Using video allows companies to include a five-second ad before their content begins--and to continue making money.

“If you’re an advertising-supported business, you need to make sure you’re still getting money,” Slaughter said.

Businesses find that consumers engage more with video than with text-based content, but that’s not to say companies are abandoning text content altogether, he said.

Vice’s Global Expansion

Vice received a $450 million investment in June from private equity firm TPG to help bolster its international presence. Vice announced plans in 2016 to expand to 50-plus countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.

Those deals exposed consumers to Viceland in Australia, New Zealand, Southeast Asia, and Africa and provided digital, mobile, and TV offerings in India.

“These new partnerships are the latest move by VICE to bring its youth-focused content to as many territories as possible, mixing local and international news, culture and lifestyle programming to young viewers across online, television and mobile,” the company said.

Since then, the company has established partnerships to expand its mobile offerings in Japan and most recently Brazil.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jaclyn Diaz in Washington at jDiaz@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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