In November Mic Network, which had raised $60m and was valued last year at $100m, fired most of its staff and was sold to Bustle Digital Group for just $5m. BuzzFeed, which has raised $500m to date, is looking to merge with other digital companies in what would amount to a bloodbath for investors. Jonah Peretti, chief executive of BuzzFeed, has acknowledged that the best way to compete for digital-advertising dollars would be to combine his firm with as many as five of its peers.

Fuck you, Buzzfeed.


Vice is my coal mine canary.

Frontline ran The Merchants of Cool in 2001. It's an overview of the behind-the-scenes marketing juggernaut that has evolved to sell things to children. I found it engaging and more than a little shocking - the cynical approach taken to underage marketing was appalling then and is appalling now.

I started working for a company called Playnetwork in 2006. We were responsible for the music in Abercrombie & Fitch. We were responsible for the music in Starbuck's. We were responsible for the music in H&M. And in the bathroom was this magazine called VICE.

I recognized it immediately. It was exactly the marketing effort described by Frontline - a hard-charging, full-bore advertorial nightmare attempting to greetings-fellow-kids its way into setting trends for marketing and media channels. It was too cool by half, too desperate by full and achingly, teeth-grindingly edgy in a way only an asshole like this assuring you he knew what 14-year-olds wanted could be:

Everybody had a subscription. We couldn't get rid of it. I mean, engineering had it. IT had it. We'd retaliate against each other by giving each other subscriptions to VICE. Note that you couldn't buy a subscription if you wanted to: it was this thing they gave away if you were "worthy" and was unacquirable if you weren't. Which was okay, because it was basically 60 slick pages of dripping sarcasm and cynical brand endorsement. It was really awful. We all knew the road to Hell was paved with VICE covers, and then we got back to figuring out where to put TVs in a Hooters.

Fast forward four years. My life is better, my career is more cynical, and I'd occasionally tell people about this bullshit magazine "VICE" I used to get for free whether I wanted it or not (because if you're a professional sound mixer, there are at least eight magazines you have to put a lot of effort into not getting for free). One day, someone shows me a Youtube video. There's Shane Fuckin' Smith. And before too long, everyone is at full "ZOMG VICE."

I guess because they'd never seen the print magazine, they didn't understand that 100% of the content is 100% designed to make you feel 100% as if you're more knowledgeable, more trendy, more in-the-know than 100% of your friends and neighbors. But it's still this asshole telling you what kids like.

Sure. They'll go to Afghanistan. Sure. They'll shoot some edgy bullshit thing at Charlottesville. But at the end of the day, they're attention whores trying to convince you they're tastemakers. And HBO bought it. And Viacom bought it. I guess when you're watching five minutes of flashy bullshit at a time, it takes a while to notice.

But the world took notice.

Vice is my coal mine canary.

posted by user-inactivated: 272 days ago