Shane Smith just keeps moving. Just six months after he raised $500m by selling 20% of Vice shares to A+E Networks and Technology Crossover Ventures and 18 months after he sold 5% to Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, the founder of the soaring millennial media group has ramped up his deal with Time Warner’s HBO pay channels. The deal includes a daily 30-minute Vice news show and more than 60 documentaries and news specials a year. It’s big deal.
Brooklyn-based Vice has grown from a free, substance-stained Montreal hippy monthly into a media titan, on its way to realising Smith’s ambition to be the next CNN: “This deal…allows Vice the freedom to go after any story, anywhere we find it – and to do so with complete independence. Over the the last few years, our relationship with HBO has morphed from a great business partnership into a transformative brand-builder. This groundbreaking deal will create a new voice in news.” Vice operates in 40 countries and reaches some 160m people per month across all platforms. More than ever, it’s the global news group to watch.
Jeff Bezos: This was the week of strong rumours that Amazon, the world’s most successful (but not so profitable) online retailer, is about to acquire the brilliant but also scarcely-profitable Net a Porter. The London-based upscale fashion retailer, founded by US-born former fashion journalist Natalie Massenet 15 years ago, is being sold by luxury product company Richemont. If the deal happens, Bezos is expected to use the company to compete directly with another London-based business ASOS, the destination for 20-somethings who go online to spend at least 40% of their fashion budget (and, perhaps, 80% of their ‘fast fashion’). Pointedly, ASOS founder Nick Robertson has often declared his intention to become “the Amazon of fashion retailing”. Ouch. And all those fashion magazine publishers which have harboured their own e-commerce ambitions (including Vogue’s Conde Nast, which once considered bidding for Net a Porter) might just be scaling-back their plans.
Context: ASOS: a warning for magazines
Jeremy Clarkson: The veteran UK journalist and broadcaster was axed after punching and verbally abusing his BBC producer. Few organisations would have hesitated in dismissing a senior executive in those circumstances. But this was the star of Top Gear, the public broadcaster’s worldwide hit TV show. And even the Prime Minister weighed in by reminding the BBC and its audience just how great a talent is Clarkson. David Cameron may come to regret his support at the start of a so-tight election campaign. But Clarkson is a friend and near neighbour of the PM, along with re-appointed News Corp exec Rebekah Brooks and Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth. Sky/ Fox may just be first in line to sign the Top Gear star and his award-winning production team.
Belle Gibson: Atria Books in the US is pulping an estimated 7,000 copies of “Aussie health guru” Belle Gibson’s debut cookbook, “The Whole Pantry”, amid acrimony and accusations. Less than two months ago, it was all so different. The 26-year-old looked as if she had it all, having conquered terminal cancer of the blood, spleen, brain, uterus and liver.
She had become a media star in Australia in 2013 when she told of her recovery by cutting gluten and dairy from her diet and having oxygen therapy, colonic irrigation and traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine, after radiotherapy and chemotherapy had failed to help. Gibson launched a health, wellness and lifestyle app, The Whole
Pantry, which has been downloaded more than 300,000 times, at a price of about €2.75. It was so successful that Apple last month flew her to California for the launch of the Apple Watch, which was due to be pre-loaded with the app. Her cookery book, also called The Whole Pantry, was published by Penguin in Australia last year and was due to appear in Britain and the US next month.
Aussie media loved Gibson’s story. Cosmopolitan magazine gave her a Fun Fearless Female award. Elle wrote last December that she was The Most Inspiring Woman of the Year. But, in February, a breakfast TV presenter told her: “For a person living with brain cancer, might I add, you look incredibly healthy.” It was an innocent enough question that seemed to be a trigger for the whole story to unravel. Two weeks later, newspapers reported: “Police have visited the Melbourne home of Belle Gibson after revelations that her claims she had cancer – which she used to create a wellness empire – may have been false.”
The Age newspaper revealed that money promised to various charities had not arrived. Gibson had claimed to have given away 25 per cent of her company’s profits and that “a large part of everything” earned was donated to worthy causes. Last year, she said Aus$300,000 had already been given to charity. But she has now admitted that The Whole Pantry was running at a loss and has not given any money to anyone.
Belle Gibson told The Australian this month : “It was more of a misdiagnosis than completely fictional” and that she wanted “some of my privacy back”. You bet.
Context: The publicists’ dream
Heroes & Villains
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