Shane Smith, the burly head of the VICE empire, is now worth several hundred million dollars, thanks to his company's peerless ability to sell counterculture cool to mainstream corporations. Don't mention that to Shane, though. It's a sensitive topic.
VICE is now a company valued at over a billion dollars and partly owned by Rupert Murdoch. It should be thoroughly uncontroversial to point out the fact that its success is based on the neat trick of luring in cool young people with the promise of don't-give-a-fuck edginess, and then selling those young people's coolness to Intel, or Absolut, or any other large corporation that needs to buy that sort of coolness because, as a large global corporation, it cannot produce coolness on its own. All very ironic and run-of-the-mill.
Those who criticise Smith's ventures into advertising – such as Gawker Media's Nick Denton, who claims Smith is mainly interested in Vice's lucrative sponsored content streams – receive similarly short shrift. "Nick Denton has accused me of fucking Hiroshima," he says. "Gawker is a bunch of bitches … they have a bone in their ass about Vice."
He insists "we don't do branded content, we do content sponsored by brands", and defends Vice's production, for instance, of a web show on outdoor pursuits sponsored by The North Face. "Does North Face tell us where to go? Do they pick our hosts? Do they fucking pick the story? No. We're gonna make that fucking story. Do we wear some North Face shit? Sometimes." No programming has ever been edited for a sponsor, he says.
CORRECTION TO ALL PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED STORIES: VICE does not do branded content—rather, it does content sponsored by brands. VICE may also wear some North Face shit, sometimes. We regret any perceived insinuation that VICE is not as cool as VICE would lead you to believe.
All this talk of Shane Smith's staggering personal wealth reminds me that we are seeking current or former VICE employees to tell us anonymously about the notoriously poor pay of VICE employees. Email Hamilton@Gawker.com. Photo of Shane Smith in some North Face shit via FB.