Broadcast on Viceland Canada takes smart, global, innovative approach
Millennials, amirite? They’re nothing but Instagram-happy, emoji-LOL-ing, mannequin-challenging navelgazers. Or so the theory goes. How can they put their pants on one leg at a time, like everyone else, when they’re sausaged into skinny jeans?
Yet when it comes to slurping up the news of the day, says Michael Gruzuk, millennials are more like previous generations than one might think. They’re just looking for it in fresh technology, in fresh formats and, Vice News Tonight is betting, on fresh TV channels.
“Young people actually care about things. They care about what’s happening. They care about Standing Rock, they care about the U.S. election, WikiLeaks and pretty serious things,” says Gruzuk, the director of news, digital and specialty programming for Vice Canada.
“There’s been an assumption based on their media behaviour that they only care about clickbait and NSFW links, but people want to feel smart. They want to feel connected to the world around them, (but they want) something they can trust. They are more distrustful than previous generations.”
Ripe time, then, for Vice News Tonight and its online and mobile endeavours to home in on the generation that’s clicking the light fantastic. Millennials are, as they say, a growth industry.
There were 9.5 million of them in Canada last year — 27 per cent of the population, says an Environics Analytics report that puts their birthdate between 1981 and 2000. That’s equal to Boomers, and much more than the 7.2 million Gen Xers (20 per cent), and 3.9 million pre-Boomers (11 per cent).
That same report showed that they’re highly educated: 75 per cent of millennial females, and 65 per cent of millennial males, had a post-secondary degree or diploma. They’re also culturally diverse — 22 per cent of millennials were visible minorities in 2011, the highest percentage among the generations.
Thus, since its debut in Canada in October, Vice News Tonight — and its broadcasting channel Viceland, which launched in February — has pumped out smart, globally minded stories. Unlike traditional TV news, Vice News Tonight has no anchor intoning sternly behind a newsdesk, no quirky weather guy, no clips of squirrels water-skiing.
Instead it uses voice-overs, interviews and strong visuals — including occasional animated graphics — to transition through stories. The flexible format allows for in-depth analysis that complements the headlines viewers have no doubt already gobbled up on Twitter, The Skimm or Facebook.
Recent stories on Vice News Tonight and the Vice News YouTube channel include the living conditions for Syrian refugees in Berlin, a look at France one year after the Paris attacks, the legalization of weed in California, and the history of the emoji. Each segment is a bite-sized three to six minutes.
“Every metric you would use to look at young people’s consumption of the news is pointing in the direction that they don’t really need this show. That they don’t have the same relationship with evening newscasts that previous generations did, in the sense that you didn’t know what was going on during the day, and you came home turned on the TV and learned about what happened,” says Gruzuk.
“I like CNN and all those news channels. But we’re not trying to compete with them in how they deliver information. And I don’t think our millennial audience really needs more of that.”
Viceland’s parent company, Vice Media, has spent more than two decades figuring out what the elusive, advertiser-friendly 18- to 34-year-old demo does need.
In 1994, Suroosh Alvi and CEO Shane Smith founded Vice as an alternative weekly magazine in Montreal that emphasized photography and graphic layouts, soon adding video as a hallmark. Vice moved to the U.S. about 15 years ago and expanded internationally.
This past February, Vice Media expanded into TV by partnering with A&E Networks in the U.S. and Rogers Media in Canada, replacing the homegrown company’s Bio channel.
“(Vice was) known for getting cameras into places in surprising ways, into the heart of international stories that we became known for,” says Gruzuk, who previously spent 14 years at CBC working for broadcasts like The National and Marketplace.
“We’re trying to bring that to the nightly show. You don’t see pundits on the show; you don’t see talking heads. You’ll always see people in stories and places. That’s what we’re looking for: Take me somewhere, show me something, give me access to a world and don’t tell me how to feel about it.”
Viceland’s other programming echoes that. The Canadian channel airs content from the U.S. like Gaycation, in which Ellen Page explores LGBTQ communities worldwide, and Black Market, probing illicit trade. Homegrown fare includes the upcoming Rise, focusing on indigenous communities resisting colonization, and Dead Set on Life, a culinary travel show hosted by Toronto chef Matty Matheson.
“It’s a challenge for sure. But so far, we’ve been pleasantly surprised by how the audience is engaging with Vice News Tonight. Are they watching it every day? No. But even with traditional newscasts like The National on CBC, a loyal viewer only watches that show maybe twice a week,” says Gruzuk.
“I don’t think there’s anything like it in Canada, in the sense that it’s taking an international approach. One thing we’re proud of is you don’t feel it’s necessarily coming from Toronto or London or New York. It’s dateline agnostic. Young people are global citizens. They don’t feel the boundary of borders in the same way.”
Vice News Tonight airs weeknights, Viceland