Nine’s Pedestrian to revive Vice and launch Refinery29 in Australia

Less than a year after Vice shrunk its local operations almost to the point of non-existence, Pedestrian has announced it will revive the media brand and launch women’s media site Refinery29 in the local market.

Despite Vice’s previous difficulties locally, and the shuttering of other digital newsrooms including Buzzfeed, 10 Daily, and, Pedestrian’s CEO Matt Rowley is confident both Vice and Refinery29 will be set up for success.

“In the Pedestrian Group, we’ve actually seen growth year-on-year,” Rowley told reporters, addressing the local media landscape’s condensing.

“Part of what’s behind that is the scale that we’ve got in market. If you think about Pedestrian, it’s always been a self-sustaining business model. It’s needed to be profitable to reinvest in the business and build. It’s never been a venture capital-backed business model.

“The reason why we’re confident this is going to work is that we can put that Pedestrian might behind these brands in a way that no other youth or lifestyle publisher in Australia can.

“It’s a different situation now, Vice joining our group, rather than trying to build to that scale by itself.”

The remaining Vice Australia staff – senior reporter Gavin Butler and commercial lead Victoria Yelland Riddell – will immediately be brought within the Pedestrian Group, and Refinery29 will launch within the first half of this year.

Refinery29’s global editor-in-chief, Simone Oliver, said she is “so excited to expand Refinery29 into the Australian market”.

“The ethos of this platform is to be able to create a space for women and for underrepresented voices to be seen and heard,” Oliver noted. “We look forward to seeing how this platform is received here – and continuing to grow the Refinery audience.”


Rowley said the team is yet to discuss whether internal transfers, such as from Pedestrian – whose titles also include Business Insider, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, and Kotaku – to Vice or Refinery29, will occur, but emphasised each will have an independent editorial team. Pedestrian is already “looking at how we build out those teams”, but will really get “stuck into the planning” now the deal is public.

The editorial separation is important, because, as Pedestrian Group’s publisher, Vanessa Lawrence, puts it, “our goal certainly isn’t to ‘Pedestrianise’ VICE and Refinery29”.

There will be no downsizing and no redundancies, Rowley promised, the plan is purely “additive”. The deal was first contemplated a year ago, during an internal strategic review, with negotiations playing out over the past few months.

Refinery29 will be launching in the first half of this year

The deal does not encompass Vice’s other businesses including creative agency Virtue, Vice Studios, Vice Distribution, and i-D. Vice Media Group will continue to run Vice World News across Australia and New Zealand, and its TV partnership with SBS on Viceland remains in place – it was renewed in December – as does its deal with Sky New Zealand.

Pedestrian’s chief executive added the arrangement will allow the group to strengthen its video offering.

“Pedestrian TV’s voice and character has always lended itself more towards short-form, social video … [whereas] Vice has always had that voice and they’ve built out that capability for that longer form video content which talks to different platforms, YouTube for example,” Rowley said.

“And that’s something we’ve been looking at and been thinking about ‘How as we, as Pedestrian Group, develop into [that]?’. Obviously now, having Vice as part of the group, we’re instantly there.”

Vice acquired Refinery29 in October 2019, the women’s media brand well-known for its US presence. According to Nielsen’s April 2020 digital content rankings – the last figures to include Vice – there was only a 7.76% overlap between Vice’s audience and Pedestrian’s.

In December, Nielsen’s data showed that Pedestrian reaches 4.16 million local readers per month, while Vice reaches 1.18 million.

“This is a real case of planets aligning, [with] Pedestrian Group looking for strong, distinct brands as part of their portfolio [and] we, at the same time, looking for really innovative ways to build our brands and scale audiences,” said Vice Digital’s president across the Asia Pacific, Myki Slonim.

The multi-year licensing deal follows Pedestrian ending its licensing arrangement with Popsugar – now housed under Val Morgan Digital, with an entirely new editorial team – and commercial arrangements with Tinder.


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