Perhaps you've seen this chart from the Awl, which shows via colorful line graphs exactly how screwed the magazine industry is. (Very screwed.) However, one magazine seems to be weathering the storm quite well. Vice. What's their dirty little secret?
That's what this recent Financial Times profile of the Vice empire tries to grasp. It starts by looking at Vice's lavish, quarter-million dollar Halloween party and asking the very good questions: "$250,000!? Wha—-huh!? Where did they get all this money?" Here's where: Vice increased its revenue from $45-64 million in 2008 alone. Turns out it's all about what you DO AND DON'T, and we had a foul-mouthed former Vice intern annotate the various tips and tricks contained in the FT piece that you, too, can use to build a successful alternative magazine/media empire.
DO: Become an Ad Agency
With Virtue, [Vice's in-house ad agency] the business has become a one-stop shop for youth branding. At the same time as charging premiums for advertising in its own pages, the company produces video content, photoshoots and other work for less than more established advertising agencies thanks to its network of 4,000 freelance creatives from around the world.
4,000 freelance creatives! In addition to the magazine, website, Viacom-backed online video channel, record label, book publishing house, film studio and London pub (!), Vice should think about opening a chain of over-priced coffeshops to give those freelancers somewhere to park their Macbooks.
DON'T: Be Corporate
The company has always been marked by an anti-establishment approach that has infused its editorial and business approach. Only now, for example, is the company starting to create hierarchies and line managers.
"Since day one, we have worked with brands and for brands," explains an unapologetic Mr Simon. "We are completely transparent in what we do. Never in any of our communications will we find a cheeky way to get one over on our audience. The audience is incredibly sophisticated."
Here's how sophisticated Vice's audience is: One time, I met this girl at the Charleston and I told her I was interning for Vice. And she's like "Cool, let's go back to my place fuck." So, we go back to her place, she puts on some Finnish electronica, then calls up her ex-boyfriend and asks him if he wants to come over and have a three-way with a dude who works at Vice. He said no fucking way. But still, she was totally into it!
DON'T: Let Sketchers Advertise in Your Magazine
But while Vice's reach is global, it remains targeted at a large niche and advertisers are required to fit with this brand image. For example, it has rejected advertisers, such as footwear giant Sketchers, when they have not fit with its image.
I believe it was the great philosopher Plato who once said: "There's just something about Sketchers that screams, 'I am poor.'" Seriously, Sketchers put the "S" in "Trailer TraSh".
DO: Think Big
"We can produce better content than is on TV for pennies in the dollar and put it on phones and TV," says Mr Smith. "Eventually when we get to 25m unique [users] and have all the biggest brands in the world underwriting it, we go to Google and say, ‘If you turn on the jets we'll be the biggest network in the world and overtake MTV'."
Imagine that: It'll be like a hipster Tower of Babel, bringing together all the slightly-differing types of hipsters from all over the world and uniting them in a glorious three-day outdoor indie music festival. We'll call it: The Dell Celebration of Universal Brotherhood.