Woke & Broke: Why Left-Wing Publications Like 'Vice' Are Failing

Once-thriving lefty webzine Vice is going into receivership with a George Soros organization, but the site’s stunning failure sits perhaps only at the middle of an ongoing trend best described as, “Go woke, go broke.”


Before we get to the trend, I’ll catch you up on the latest developments with Vice.

Vice filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday morning, in what the Chicago Tribune called just “the latest in a string of digital media setbacks.” The company is selling its assets for $225 million in credit to a group of three investment firms, Fortress Investment Group, Soros Fund Management, and Monroe Capital. Ten days ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that Vice might get as much as $400 million from Soros & Co.

According to Outkick’s Clay Travis, just a few years ago Vice was valued at $5.7 billion. At today’s bailout price, the company is now worth just one 25th as much — although it could in the future prove priceless to Soros Fund Management as an ongoing lefty propaganda outfit.

We’ll see.

Vice’s fall from grace — detailed here by The Spectator’s Kara Kennedy — follows close on the heels of BuzzFeed’s implosion. Described as Vice’s “competitor” by Invezz, BuzzFeed’s value has crashed a shocking 98% from its all-time high. Its current market cap is just $75 million or so, down from a peak of $1.2 billion.

BuzzFeed has shut down the once-popular BuzzFeed News, is laying off 15% of its workforce, and is shifting its focus to the Huffington Post, which I was only just now reminded was still a thing. BuzzFeed at least still had a brand; I’m not sure what HuffPo’s brand is any longer, and I read the news for a living.


Lefty online giant Vox Media faces its own troubles. Founded in 2011, Vox Media is the umbrella company for “progressive” online news sites like The Verge, SB Nation, PopSugar, and (of course) young adult infotainment site Vox. The company went through another round of layoffs in January, and the spinoff of NowThis earlier this year resulted in a company valuation “at roughly half its 2015 valuation,” according to the New York Times today.

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Then there’s the elephant in the living room, or is that a giant mouse? The Walt Disney Company is generally considered too big to fail, sitting as it does on generations of intellectual property from 1928’s Steamboat Willy to Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, now playing at a theater near you. The mediocre reviews for GOG3 and decent box office sales make it the best-performing Marvel movie since Avengers: Endgame wrapped up the original storylines in 2019. (Not including the third Spider-Man movie, which was a co-op with Sony.) The Disney+ streaming service lost billions last year.

During 2022’s rough year for the stock markets, Disney performed worse than any other large-cap company. The board might be happy with the lame product the company is peddling, but eventually, shareholders will demand change.


It’s true that the collapse in the online advertising market — thanks, Google! thanks, Facebook! — has hit everyone hard, including the two sites I’ve called my home for almost longer than I can remember: PJ Media and Instapundit. But there are a couple of reasons we’re still around while they’re flailing.

The first and most obvious is that those sites were massive operations. If there’s one thing the internet taught people — and this is going back more than 20 years — it’s that you’ve got to stay lean and mean.

The other is that they failed to connect in any lasting way with their readers. Here’s the big tell from that same NYT story I linked above:

Like some of its peers in the digital-media industry, including BuzzFeed and Vox Media, Vice and its investors bet big on the rising power of social media networks like Facebook and Instagram, anticipating they would deliver a tide of young, upwardly mobile readers that advertisers craved.

Vice, Vox, and BuzzFeed’s real audience wasn’t their readers, but the social-media-giant gatekeepers. Those gatekeepers have been choking off the flow of traffic to all political sites over the last few years, and believe me, PJ Media and our Townhall compadres have felt it, too. But Facebook and Instagram nannies were never our audience. Our roots are in blogging, connecting to readers the hard way — one at a time. The fun way, too, I might add.


That’s why we launched VIP and VIP Gold in 2019, so that the people most invested in our content — that’s you, gentle reader — could support us directly without relying on the whims of Mark Zuckerberg or Google’s value-destroying algorithms.

As a fellow writer, it’s hard not to feel for the writers at sites like Vice who have no idea what’s coming next — despite our serious political differences. But as a columnist for PJ Media, I’m grateful as hell for our readers, who are more engaged and invested than ever.

If you aren’t already a VIP member, please consider becoming one today. And if you sign up for the annual membership and use the code SAVEAMERICA, you’ll save a tidy 50% off the fee!


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