B2C. Vice Media, the owner of media brands including Vice, Noisey, Motherboard and i-D, is in talks to acquire women’s digital publisher Refinery29, but no definite agreement has yet been reached.
Refinery29 claims to reach 425m readers globally and has been backed by companies such as WPP, Hearst, and Discovery. However, after revenues failed to meet expectations in 2018, the company cut 10% of its staff.
Founded by Shane Smith in Canada 25 years ago as an edgy print magazine, Vice became the hottest digital media of the past decade and gained investments totalling some $1bn from Fox, Disney, WPP, and TPG as its digital growth soared. However, like Refinery, it also began to miss its revenue targets, due to declining traffic and poor performance from its Viceland TV channel. This year, Vice’s new CEO, Nancy Dubuc cut 250 jobs, HBO cancelled its two shows, and Disney wrote off its $350m investment. Like Refinery29, Vice has been trying to diversify its revenue streams, through TV streaming and production and its Virtue, marketing agency.
In some ways, the two companies are complementary. But the two cultures may simply not fit. Refinery29’s audience is about as girly as Vice’s is bro-y. It is estimated that Vice has revenue of $600m and an audience 60% outside the US, while Refinery29 has revenue of some $100m, predominantly from within the US. Don’t bet on it.