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July 29, 2019, 12:11 p.m.
Business Models
LINK: www.wsj.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Christine Schmidt   |   July 29, 2019

In the latest digital media shimmy, Vice Media is now contemplating the assets of Refinery29, The Wall Street Journal’s Benjamin Mullin reported on Friday:

Vice Media is in talks to buy women-focused publisher Refinery29, according to people familiar with the matter, a deal that would unite two of the largest venture-backed media companies in the U.S.

Talks are still ongoing and it is possible an offer may not be made, a person familiar with the talks said…

Refinery29 has drastically shrunk its losses and grown its revenue this year by diversifying its revenue streams, according to a person familiar with the matter. Vice Media is seeking to diversify its audience and expand into new revenue streams as it seeks to meet Chief Executive Nancy Dubuc’s goal of returning the company to profitability.

No digital media outlet has really been spared in the cuts and consolidation this year, with BuzzFeed, Mic, HuffPost, and more seeing layoffs as the social-driven ad model struggles (and others seeing Bryan Goldberg merger 👀). Vice Media has seen its own set of troubles — cutting 10 percent of the workforce earlier this year, having its two HBO shows canceled, combining its verticals into one site, and letting some leadership go last month.

In the quest for profitability (and making investors happy), Dubuc has been aggressively plotting Vice’s next course since joining in May 2018. According to The Hollywood Reporter in October:

In terms of actual content, her first major swing will be a two-hour nightly live show that will air four nights a week on the Viceland cable network. She also plans to bolster Vice Studios, which finances and produces films and television shows for third-party buyers (including a feature drama called The Torture Report, starring Adam Driver and Jon Hamm, set to make a festival debut in 2019) and marketing agency Virtue (behind Google’s recent “Don’t Be a Browser” campaign). And while Vice Digital — a collection of web verticals like Noisey (music), Munchies (food) and Broadly (women’s issues) that hovers around 27 million monthly visitors — remains central to her plan, she calls Smith prescient for diversifying when he did, arguing that Vice no longer can be called a “digital media business.”

Adding a digital media publisher to its portfolio would…definitely make Vice stand out as a digital media business. Vice is still trying to diversify more significantly, which is where it seems Refinery29 comes in: Its audience is about as girly as Vice’s is bro-y. Refinery29 also cut 10 percent of its workforce in October. My colleague Laura Hazard Owen reported in March how Refinery29’s employees developed its fastest-growing Instagram account by and for black millennial women, bringing 50 percent of followers who are new to Refinery29’s work.

“Talks are still ongoing and it is possible an offer may not be made, a person familiar with the talks said,” Mullin reported on Friday.

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