Meet Vice Media Boss Shane Smith, Rupert Murdoch’s “Wild” New Pal
Move over, David Karp — you’re not the only Williamsburg dude with a billion-dollar new-media company anymore.
A new investment from Rupert Murdoch values Shane Smith’s Vice Media, the edgy-but-not-too-edgy media conglomerate, at $1.4 billion. As the Financial Times reported yesterday, Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox now owns a five percent stake in Vice, which does everything from magazines to Web series to HBO series.
The funding caused a little ripple among media folks, some of whom made the requisite comparisons to the New York Times (market cap: $1.7 billion) and the Washington Post (a mere $250 million). But, in retrospect, this one shouldn’t be surprising.
For starters, Rupert Murdoch, like many big-media bosses, has been intrigued by Vice and its pitch — Hello, young free-thinking but still-spending-disposable-income folks! We totally get you, and we are not your parents’ media company! — for some time.
Who’s heard of VICE media? Wild, interesting effort to interest millenials who don’t read or watch established media. Global success.
— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) Oct. 13, 2012
And while the billion-dollar mark tends to get people’s attention, the truth is that Vice was already very close to that. Prior to Murdoch, investors had put money into Vice at something like a $900 million valuation.
In any case, it’s easy to understand Vice’s appeal to Murdoch and other big-media guys. The Brooklyn-based company does make stuff the young’uns like. And, just as crucially, they have a business model that old-media guys understand. That is: Vice is basically, and unapologetically, an ad agency that gets people like Intel to pay them a lot of money to produce content.
It also helps that Shane Smith is an awesome character. He’s a hard-living (when I emailed with him last night, he told me he was typing his reply from Kandahar), hard-partying (“I like food and I like booze“) dude who is very smart about employing that persona to maximum effect.
You can get a sense of that here, via the chat I had with him and CollegeHumor founder Ricky Van Veen, at our D: Dive Into Media conference in February. He’s the dude with the beard and the vodka.