This week, Vice Media launched Broadly, a channel for and about women edited by former Jezebel writer and editor Tracie Egan Morrissey and published by six-year Vice veteran Shanon Kelley. Despite some natural skepticism about a network as dude-centric as Vice launching a women’s channel (accentuated by The Onion’s new testosterone-packed Vice parody EDGEtv), the trailer released last week blew people away.
Teased documentaries included an investigative reporting series on reproductive health, an in-depth profile of a black female biker gang, and a frank day out with feminist nightmare Ann Coulter. The channel is clearly committed to taking Vice‘s signature no-holds-barred approach and applying it to underreported stories affecting women and their communities.
Fast Company spoke with Kelley about why Broadly is necessary, what it will offer that other women’s media don’t, and what business challenges and opportunities it presents to the Vice empire.
What’s the origin story of Broadly?
I’ve been at the company for over six years now, and last summer I was joking around with some of the younger girls that work here and we were like, “Why isn’t there, a woman’s channel for Vice? And then I was just like, wait a minute . . . why isn’t there one? So I started talking about it with our president, Andrew Creighton, and he was like, “You gotta take this to [cofounder and CEO] Shane [Smith].” When I sat down with Shane a couple of weeks later, he said “Wow, this is really funny. You know this woman Tracie [Egan Morrissey], I met with her maybe a week ago and she pitched me the same thing.” I met with her literally that afternoon, we had a glass of wine. And then I texted Shane right after and I said, “She’s great, let’s do this.” And he texted me back and was like, “Awesome, you’re a publisher now.”
Why did Vice decide to create a channel dedicated to women instead of just incorporating more women-focused stories into the regular programming and editorial?
That was definitely the conversation within the company. Do you do the long game where you focus more on the women audience within Vice? Or do you dive in and go for them all at once? And adjust the conversation right away with a new channel? I think the consensus was, let’s do this properly, and let’s give this voice to women’s media that doesn’t really exist yet, let’s start it.
How has your previous work informed the development and promotion of an effort like this?
I’ve always been kind of the only woman on the sales team, but I wouldn’t say I have any background in women’s media other than the fact that I’ve been in media and at Vice this long and seen what else is out there. A lot of our senior sales staff go on to be the publishers of Vice channels–it makes the most sense, because we have the best understanding of the company from the sales and business development standpoint, and we also know how to run really big campaigns on a multimillion dollar level.
What were the advertising opportunities and challenges of launching Broadly? Did it give you access to brands that might not normally advertise with Vice, and were any hesitant?
I think it’s really easy for people to be like, “Oh, now we can talk to Guess, and we can talk to Chanel, or makeup companies, whatever is typically female.” But for me, I really saw this as more of an opportunity to say, “Hey now we can talk to all of these male-centric brands that need to be reaching women. Let’s talk to Ford, let’s talk to the Pepsi Colas or the Coca-Colas. Let’s talk to these brands that should be reaching women more.”
I wanted to change people’s minds about women’s media through Broadly. How do you take a company like Ford and a pickup truck and kind of make them realize that, hey, women are interested in these as well? So for example, Unilever was the first company to really jump on board and hold our hands through this. We worked with them with Axe in the past, so it wasn’t a new venture to work with them necessarily, but now it opened up this whole other discussion that we would have never been able to have before.
How would you say the content on Broadly will be different from other women’s media online?
I would say that our site is not going to be reactionary. You know, we want to go out and find stories and report on them and show both sides. We’re not going to be just reacting to the news and calling out sexism wherever we see it. And we’re going to cover everything. I mean, one of the examples Tracie and I love, really love, is the Ann Coulter piece that we did with her that is in the trailer. She is obviously such a polarizing figure, but we wanted to look at her, not to glorify her in any sense or to prove anyone wrong about her, but just to show that she is an anomaly, and there are crazy things about her. Her best friends are gay. She’s about to put out a book about how America is turning into Mexico, but we go do an interview with her and she takes us to a Mexican restaurant. So things like that, we’re not going to shy away from the controversial or from the other.
What Broadly content are you most excited about so far?
There are two series I’m really excited about. Ovary Action, a reproductive health show. It’s so interesting, it’s so great. There are issues that either nobody is either talking about, or they are, but nobody is putting it all into one comprehensive piece. And then the other one, on the flip side, is this show called Style and Error, hosted by this woman Rachael Anderson who lives in L.A., and her nickname is Steak. It really reminds me of like an MTV back in the day, back to the Cindy Crawford, House of Style from the ’90s. Because obviously we want to cover the serious stuff, but we want to then cover the fun as well, because being a woman isn’t just all about rape and harassment. It’s fun to be a woman.
How does Broadly fit into the overall growth and future of Vice?
We’re the 11th channel, and Shane likes to say that this is an even bigger opportunity than Vice News, just in terms of reach and all the things that we can accomplish with this site.
Every time that we launch a new channel, it’s because we see a white space in the landscape and a need for it. With Vice News, nobody thought we should do it. They were all saying, why is Vice going to go after news, that’s such a joke. But then we became the fastest growing news site in the world for young people. The same I think is true with women. Obviously we’re not a niche, we’re not a passion point. We’re an identity, it’s half the population.