This man has big plans. Without any doubts. World domination is within his reach. Shane Smith, one of the founders of VICE magazine and CEO of VICE Media, just launched his own tv show on HBO, which he has described as “6o Minutes for young people.” But that’s not enough. He also plans a 24-hour online news network. Like CNN.
“We’re the same as Time Warner. We’re the same as Bertelsmann or Viacom. We’re just younger and weirder,” Shane Smith tells his friend and colleague Spike Jonze in the current issue of Interview Magazine. Shane used to be a “punk-rock enthusiast and always-affable party guest”, but now he’s 43, married, a father, and the CEO of a media company.
In his interview with the magazine, he talks about his relationship to Iraq, why North Korean slaves in Siberia are better than the Fashion Week and flesh-eating parasites inside the human body. And if Shane Smith hasn’t been your role model in the past, then you should think about it again. Because he could become the next media proprietor. Or dictator. Or god.
How do you do things differently than Time Warner or Bertelsmann or Viacom?
I would say that we do things differently in every way. One, our concentration now is online, and if we do TV or film, then great””it’s a bonus. But everyone else is really concentrated on TV and film. We get the best shooters and cutters right out of school so that they haven’t been tainted yet by working on TV or commercials or videos or anything””so they’re virgin””and guys like you and Bernardo and our people teach them how to be better storytellers.
So we tell stories in a different way and we have a different language. We also put them up in a different way and we cut them in a different way. We don’t cut for 22 minutes or 44 minutes, like traditional TV. If it’s two hours, then we cut to two hours. If it’s two minutes, then we cut to two minutes. We don’t care.
So I think that in what we do, there is a different voice and a different way of speaking to Gen Y. You can’t really try to do it””you can’t get a vernacular expert. I mean, we shoot differently, we cut differently, our stories are different . . . I’d say that every single thing is different except for the fact that you watch it on a TV or a computer or a phone, just like you do with everybody else’s content.
How is the way that you tell stories different?
I think we come at it from more of a documentary-filmmaking standpoint. What does that mean? It means, a lot of times in news, they say, “Here’s the story: China is hacking American companies. So go get that story. They’re called B3866 and here’s where they’re located. Go get that story.” Now, a lot of times you go, “That’s not the story. The story is that it’s these gamers who could be hackers, who the military then co-opted . . .”
But you’ve gone there and you’ve been paid and you have three days and you have to get your copy back. So you just sort of go there and go, “Okay, here’s the place, here’s the thing, and they were hacking us.” Whereas we’ll go there many times. For example, we went to Liberia, but we didn’t go to meet General Butt Naked””he was one of five or six or eight generals we met, but he, for whatever reason, sort of took us along and showed us around and was very honest with us.
What’s the biggest criticism that the Vice news stuff has gotten so far?
It’s interesting because I was saying this to somebody else. When we first started, we were really known for “Dos & Don’ts,” so I’d say the comments we got initially were about 50 percent positive and 50 percent negative. What we did was sort of Gawker-esque and sort of bitchy. We were in that kind of media.
But now, for example, if you look at Twitter or look at our news pieces or our documentary news pieces on YouTube, which are doing very well, the comments are incredibly positive. What’s happened now, though, is that because the comments and the metrics on the news stuff have been so positive, all of the other stuff that we’ve been doing””the fashion, the lifestyle stuff, the cultural stuff, the music stuff””gets sort of harshly criticized.
Because people are like, “Why do I give a shit about this band? I want to see gun markets in Pakistan,” or like, “Who cares about Fashion Week Internationale? I want to see North Korean slaves in Siberia.” So it’s actually changed our brand to the effect that we can’t do anything funny anymore or we get in trouble. We get in shit a lot now if we’re not serious””which is weird because we were never serious before. So it’s kind of a double-edged sword.
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