Inside the Vice Media-Refinery29 deal and what it means for the future of digital media

Philippe von Borries Justin Stefano Refinery29 CEO foundersPhilippe von Borries (L) and Justin Stefano (R) cofounded Refinery29 in 2005.Refinery29

  • The women-focused Refinery29 is being acquired by Vice Media for mostly stock, ending its 15-year run as an independent digital-media company.
  • The announced deal unites a woman's lifestyle publisher and male-focused Vice. It's part of a recent wave of consolidation by digital-media companies to better compete with Facebook and Google for ad dollars.
  • Business Insider reported on the Refinery-Vice deal, the inside story behind Refinery's rise and ultimate sale, lessons of the acquisition, and whether consolidation will make digital media stronger.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The women-focused Refinery29 is being acquired by Vice Media for mostly stock, ending its 15-year run as an independent digital-media company.

The deal brings together a woman's lifestyle publisher and male-focused Vice, known for its edgy content. It's one of three recent examples of consolidation by digital media companies to better compete with Facebook and Google for ad dollars, in addition to Vox Media's acquisition of New York Media and Group Nine Media's of PopSugar.

Inside Refinery, some expressed feelings of relief after months of speculation over a deal as well as apprehension about the future of their company's progressive editorial mission and their jobs.

Here's the backstory of Refinery29's rise from bootstrapped company to venture capital-backed publisher and what people are saying about it:

How Refinery29 bootstrapped for 8 years, caught fire, and raised $133 million - only to end up selling to another struggling startup, Vice Media, for mostly stock

Co-CEOs Justin Stefano and Philippe von Borries were media outsiders and accidental fashion publishers when, in their early 20s, they left their jobs in law and politics, respectively, to start the company. Now the rise of it and other venture-backed media companies is seen as a cautionary tale about the risks of being too ad-reliant.

Read the memo Refinery29 leaders sent to staff about Vice Media buying the company

In a memo to staff announcing the deal, Refinery29's founders said they built "one of the most important and influential brands in media" and that the deal would allow it to continue to grow while remaining an independent brand.

There were similar motivations for the recent tie-up between Vox Media and New York Media.

Vox Media is acquiring New York magazine. Here's how it plans to use it to fuel its growth.

Media observers are questioning the merits of combining Refinery and Vice, though.

Vice Media finally acquired Refinery29, and industry insiders are already wondering how the combined business will be stronger

Both companies used to be seen as ways for advertisers to reach elusive millennials, but have lost their appeal as copycat sites have sprung up and advertisers heavy up on performance-driven spending.

Some Vice insiders think the Refinery deal is just part one, with Vice Media expected to try to sell itself to a bigger company down the road.

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