Vice has just marked its tenth anniversary in the UK. The past decade has seen its evolution from a publisher of a magazine for the under 30s filled with "sex, drugs and rock and roll", to a creator of long-form videos that translate tough subjects for a young audience.
After the "cocaine nineties" and a decade of excess, Vice today tackles more sober subjects and "more political films", Alex Miller, executive editor of Vice UK, told last week's news:rewired conference.
Miller said that Vice editors came to realise "we cannot live in such a difficult decade without commentating on it", explaining that filmmakers now travel the world and produce long-form videos for the web on anything from current affairs to the environment.
There is a 2006 film on Iraq's only heavy metal band; more recently the title has covered riots in Greece; and a US team has made the Vice guide to Karachi, the largest and fastest-growing city in Pakistan.
"It's not the kind of topic you expect to find in a youth-based publication," Miller said.
"We trick people into caring about the planet," he told the conference. "We think we are really good at it. We think we are the best at it."
Vice started life as the Voice, a fanzine set up in Canada, Miller explained. The title has been in the UK for 10 years and one week, starting life as a magazine with a reputation for controversial stories and images of sex, drugs and war, and more recently taking advantage of new distribution platforms such as YouTube and the lower costs of producing broadcast-quality films.
Miller told news:rewired that a different approach often gives a different story, one he argues that is "probably closer to the truth".
Miller was part of a team that went to film riots in Greece earlier this year. "It was a very young crew", he explained. "I was 28 at the time and was the oldest in the crew by about four years."
The members of the team did not have press cards and were not staying at the hotel many journalists from other news outlets had booked into. "We were right in the thick of it," Miller explained.
"We are an alternative voice," he added. "By the very nature of us being Vice, us being different, we got very different stuff – which was probably closer to truth."
Vice has grown up in the last decade and is now making films for American broadcast network HBO.
"When Vice started in the nineties, everyone was more optimistic," Miller said. "It is no longer cool to be stupid. I guess now that we are trying to make it look like its cool to be intelligent."
Related reading: From fanzine to HBO: How Vice became a video success story
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