In a New York Times article about him, Shane Smith, CEO and co-founder of Vice Media, was quoted, saying he wanted to be just like Tom Freston, “Tom Just flies around everywhere, gets to make movies, gets to start TV shows, hang out with cool people and do whatever he wants.” Tom Freston was a top executive at Viacom and was instrumental in the success of MTV and is now an advisor to Vice. Just like Shane Smith, I want to be just like Tom, and since Shane Smith is now just like Tom, I want to be just like Shane Smith for the same reasons he wants to be just like Tom.
Shane Smith started Vice along with Suroosh Alvi and a friend in 1994 as a punk magazine. It took the company ten years to reach one million subscribers, but once the company began its digital presence it only took one year to reach 1.2 million unique visitors monthly. Vice now reaches over 200 million unique monthly visitors through its global collection of over 500 publishers.
This large success is due to the vision of Shane Smith and of course the people he surrounds himself with. Under Smith, Vice has managed to produce content that resonates with not only young people across the world, but also with people who are interested in a refreshingly honest telling of stories. Through its partnership with the super cool HBO, Vice has managed to gain an even greater spotlight. Now, the company could be worth tens of billions of dollars if it were to go public. However, Vice’s going public could ruin the casual corporate culture that currently pushes it to succeed.
In the same New York Times article, Shane Smith was described as “a robust storyteller, the type who wears a few extra pounds as if they’re a trophy from good living. He seems to come by his Falstaffian Persona Naturally.” There has also been some recent interest in Shane Smith as he was reported to have spent around $300,000 on a meal in Las Vegas after having made $1 million from gambling. While I do not know Smith personally and cannot attest to his character, I can objectively say that he has created a media empire that is only growing and gaining influence in our society. I think his character has been a serious contributing factor to his success and the success of Vice. I think it would be quite the experience to pal around with Shane Smith for a day or grab dinner with him.