“What an attractive GIF”, many might say upon seeing “Zohal”, Vice Arabia’s go-to person for all things astronomy and edginess. Did Vice create that edginess in the Arab region though? Where does it stem from, and where is it going from here?
Edginess, a trending word in recent years, quite reflects Vice Media’s thirst to keep doing its magic; a formula consisting of three things, as one of the founders Shane Smith states to ADWEEK in 2014.
“We want to do three things. We want to make good content, we want to have as many eyeballs as possible see that content, and we want to make money so that we can keep paying to do that content,” he says.
Both Smith and Suroosh Alvi, Vice’s founders, concentrated on one big umbrella that followed Vice wherever it landed in its bold journey worldwide. The duo focusing on non-traditional media executed a robust organizational culture, which is one of the reasons why edginess dominates most of the media platform’s content.
Vice’s magic reached the Arab world in 2017, and its organizational culture followed. Out of the numerous definitions, Roger Connors, CEO, and three-time New York Times Bestselling Author defines organizational culture for Forbes, saying that “The culture of an organization is simply how people think and act in the organization on a daily basis”.
Those behaviors among Vice, reflected through permanent employees and contributors, seem to keep the company’s values, while also conforming to the local context. Watching “Zohal”’s video, for instance, reveals a number of taboos for traditional Arab media, and to huge segments of audiences who were not used to this type of “edgy” journalism.
“Zohal’’’s astronomy show might be considered “bold” by audiences, as it hasn’t yet been brought up a lot by the local media. “It’s always been there, yet it’s just that the media has put it on the surface right now. That’s good, at least you acknowledge”, Sadguru, a renowned Yogi and author worldwide, comments on the importance of media exposing critical topics, in an hour-long panel at Columbia University.
Here is exactly where Vice succeeded in a way: Revealing the edginess and bringing it to the surface. “Do you think you have a good character, you (bad) zodiac? You are really nasty”, “Zohal” would say, along with a few words which are rarely said publicly, let alone published in the Arab region.
“Zohal”’s edgy aesthetic and core aspect, tackling relationships, sexuality, money, and many other topics, reflects the level which Vice seems to be reaching with its edginess in the region amongst a wider audience. Coupled with an organizational culture it stems from, Vice’s edginess continues, while being subjectively shifted to fit the norms, wants, and needs of each geographical region separately.
While some critics have raised questions about Vice’s methods of reporting, calling it no more than “thrill-seeking, testosterone-fuelled stunt reporting” (Kalvø), Vice mirrors these adjectives through “subjective edginess”, providing each audience what they ask for.
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Kalvø, D. (may 2015). How VICE Media Challenges the Norms, Methods, and Ideals of Mainstream Journalism (Master’s thesis). University of Bergen.
Hyder, S. (2014, June 10). Organizational Culture In The Digital Age. Retrieved October 27, 2020, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/shamakabani/2014/06/10/organizational-culture-in-the-digital-age/
Adweekemma. (2014, September 29). How Shane Smith Built Vice Into a $2.5 Billion Empire. Retrieved October 27, 2020, from https://www.adweek.com/digital/how-shane-smith-built-vice-25-billion-empire-160379/
(2020). Retrieved October, 2020, from https://www.mixcloud.com/sadhguruspodcast/sadhguru-at-columbia-university-new-york-youth-and-truth-apr-29-2019-full-talk/, D. (may 2015).