Yet, while a lot of people are successfully building audiences on YouTube, many complain that monetization is still pretty challenging – that it's digital pennies, compared with analog dollars. Machinima, which you mentioned, recently laid off 10% of its staff. Is the same not true for Vice?
For us, we're lucky in that we work with some of the world's biggest brands, and our capacity to sell outstrips our capacity to scale. We do things differently. YouTube's monetization issues are no secret. But what you can do is start making innovative deals at the brand level. A lot of online content companies fail because they don't go directly to the brand, they don't make unique or creative monetization deals.
What's an example of this?
Look at the Creators Project [a channel focused on the intersection of art and technology]. We made a deal at the brand level (with Intel). We're going to make content that young people are going to enjoy, and it is going to help your brand. Then we make that content. We exploit that content. We have a TV show in China, we have mobile in India, we license it to TV in 23 countries in the world, we create a YouTube (GOOG) channel. It drives subscriptions, and it drives millions of video views. Intel (INTC) is happy because they are getting more ads at more scale globally. We get paid for the content before we ever put it on YouTube. Those are the types of deals that you have to make. Brands want scale. They want engagement. If you just wait for somebody else to make money for you, I don't believe that's going to happen.
And you are able to keep the editorial independence?
Absolutely. We don't do branded content. We do content that is sponsored by brands. And that's no different than TV or radio or magazines.
Is Vice profitable?
Very. We have a rule that everything that we do has to make money.
We are growing at 100% a year without our big windfall deals that we are going to be announcing in Q4 or early Q1. We're getting quite big, for us at least, in the dollars sense.
YouTube and online in general is typically short form. You've had success with longer content. Why?
Long form, I believe, is (viable) for the first time ever, because of bandwidth, because of young people consuming TV-length content online or through mobile or tablets. Gen Y people now consume whole movies online, so 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes isn't too long. We're in the right place at the right time.
Not everyone is a fan of your approach to the news. You've been roundly criticized for filming Dennis Rodman in North Korea. Around that time, your site proclaimed that "North Korea has a friend in Dennis Rodman and Vice." What's your response to the criticism?
First of all, any dialogue is good with any country especially if there's aggression. Look, I'm not allowed to go to North Korea because I did two documentaries in North Korea and one outside North Korea on the slave labor camps in Siberia that were harshly critical of the regime. Vice has made no secret of our criticism of the North Korean regime.