Good morning, Madam Chair and committee members. My name is Michael Gruzuk. I am the head of news and digital for VICE Canada. Thank you very much for including VICE as a witness here this morning.
In my remarks today, I'll talk about how VICE does tell local stories and delivers them globally in a world of expanding consumer choice.
For those who may know a small bit about us, let me tell you a little bit more. We have come a very long way since our humble beginnings as a free punk publication in the streets of Montreal, founded by Canadians Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi. We are now the world's pre-eminent youth media company. We are a news, content, and culture hub and a leading producer of award-winning video that reaches millions of young people around the world on our unrivalled global network. Spanning the globe with production offices and editorial operations in now 35 countries, VICE reaches hundreds of millions of young people per month across all platforms, including 11 different digital channels, linear TV, mobile, and increasingly film.
In Canada we have experienced tremendous growth in the last couple of years. We now have offices in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. We maintain a strong network of diverse freelancers across the country. We make hundreds of hours of original in-depth and often provocative—admittedly provocative—content focused on under-reported stories about under-represented people and places, with a firm commitment to our immersive storytelling style and, again, to diverse voices.
To say a little about news, in 2014 VICE successfully launched the digital vertical VICE News, a separate section of vice.com. It is there that we produce in-depth video and editorial content from communities here in Canada and around the world. Just this past September, we celebrated the launch of VICE Québec, our digital vertical for the Quebec market. In fact, the team there recently won two Gémeaux awards for documentaries produced in the last year. Both of their documentaries are great examples of the kind of “local goes global” storytelling that VICE is committed to and finds success with, telling stories from Montreal—or in one case a small community in the Gulf of St. Lawrence—and bringing them to a Quebec audience but also to a global audience.
Last month, we also launched VICE News Tonight, a new groundbreaking daily news show that airs on VICELAND and HBO in the United States. It's our first foray into nightly news, with a format geared towards a youth audience. Just yesterday, we launched our own Canada-specific VICE News site. This is very exciting for us, because we now offer our audience at home a VICE perspective on Canadian news, and news from a Canadian perspective.
While we currently have a major presence in such centres as Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa, as well as Vancouver, we have spent a lot of time travelling this country in the last couple of years with a firm commitment to covering the margins geographically of this country—the north, Nunavut, Fort McMurray, and northern Manitoba as examples. Our investment in local storytelling isn't traditional bricks and mortar, but we do travel to these local communities and are committed to telling stories there. We go over to the stories that interest us and we tell them in a way that's relevant to youth in those communities. What we find is that it's very relevant to youth around the world. We can be present without being rooted in one place.
The amazing thing about VICE is that when we produce content—let's say some of our work on radicalization out of Calgary—we can translate the story to all 35 countries around the world, bringing local stories about Canadians to a global youth audience.
Our approach is quite simple, and this is the one message I want to stress today: we are platform agnostic, which means we're not beholden to formats. We speak directly to our audience, when and how they would like it. Our method allows us to connect with audiences outside of our own network and build upon this by actively leveraging social media to increase engagement. With the assistance of social media, in Canada alone VICE currently reaches an audience of more than 30 million a month.
At a time when traditional media are becoming more and more concentrated and newsrooms are shuttering and looking for strategic partnerships, we are open to this. VICE currently enters into partnerships that are symbiotic with our brand, such as those with Google, Rogers, Facebook, and Live Nation. These partnerships enable VICE to deliver content on all platforms and connect with an audience outside of our network. For example, VICE recently launched Daily VICE, a partnership with Fido. Daily VICE is a five- to eight-minute daily video feed with up to three stories covering news, content, culture. Just this past weekend, we did a lovely local story about the park across the street from where Leonard Cohen lived.
In closing, we know that the cost of producing traditional news programming is very high, one that has caused other media outlets to struggle or even shutter as a result of their inability to keep up with the changing media landscape. Our model scales these costs, such that we can produce local, national, and international news that local community and even some national programmers are experiencing difficulty with. We can help other media with their local programming needs. If those media outlets engage with VICE to produce content that is relevant for the millennial consumers in their given market, then we can share in those content endeavours.
The digital revolution has very much disrupted the media industry, but it also provides content creators with a tremendous opportunity to tell stories and distribute them beyond their own neighbourhoods. No other media company can mimic VICE's voice, but we can help others by lending our voice to local content, with a global reach that you want to reach.