OVERTHINKING: Is Vice TV post-convergence journalism?

Matty Matheson in Dead Set on Life. Vice.com publicity still.

I watch most of the new Vice TV shows at least sporadically. I would watch more often but I’ve gotten out of the habit of viewing traditional network tv. It’s only the shows which existed before the TV channel on YouTube that I have kept up with regularly, Matty Matheson’s Dead Set on Life and Action Bronson’s Fuck That’s Delicious. I’m expecting too that I’ll watch Damien Abraham’s new wrestling documentary when it is released even though I don’t like wrestling.

I watch these shows because I like the hosts and I realised recently I liked each of these personalities before they started tv shows. The Vice tv shows are almost a by-product or a side-hustle to each presenter’s original vocation. Matty Matheson is a successful chef and restauranteur, Action Bronson a successful rapper and Damien Abraham (an outlier to the argument) is the singer of the band Fucked Up who were successful but are less prolific than they used to be (though just as good) and is an increasingly successful podcaster.

The conventional wisdom in modern media would suggest these shows would not only need to build upon the established brand of the respective presenters but also cross promote the network shows and serve a set of sponsors to monetise the show and turn profit for the channel. This doesn’t seem to be the case and my impression is that these shows are a by-product of Matty Matheson’s food related appearances and Action Bronson’s music tours.

There are ostensibly few if any obvious sponsors. The locations and venues could, in rare instances, be a form of brand placement and there does seem to be a sort of eco-system with which Vice operates within and which producers occasionally double dip upon but I think more than anything the aim is to shirk conventional wisdom and provide candid and often rough food and travel television in the manner of traditional network tv.

       Impact of convergence:

In news reporting convergence has impacted journalists by requiring that they be skilled at multi-media reporting and can use the best platform or platforms available. Journalists can no longer specialise in just one form of reporting (i.e. print or radio) but must use multimedia to meet time or contextual demands of news for modern news consumers.

Another key impact of convergence is the need for adaptability. In Convergent Journalism: An Introduction (Flak, 2014) and The 21st Century Journalism Handbook (Holmes, 2014) convergence is examined in the context of the rising prevalence of smartphones and prevalent use of twitter. Technology and internet culture evolves so rapidly and in unexpected directions that, in 2017, the financial future of Twitter is uncertain though tools such as the GIF which were expected to become obsolete are now commonly used in meme imagery which, itself, has led to different semiotic signifiers. The Snapchat model of temporal consumption has affecte

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A meme about signifiers from a meme generator website. Author Unknown.

d the speed of image consumption and the perception of permanence. This model has spread to other platforms and is still being experimented with by big and small news providers as a method of reporting.

Increased internet literacy is constantly impacting on the idea of convergence and the role of the modern journalist. Clickbait journalism is an example of how quickly users quickly learnt the literacy of headlines and how to avoid clickbait articles. With the rise of the snapchat model of temporal imagery and meme language will journalists need to learn how to convey news in more rapid image based mediums?

Matheson and Bronson both benefit immensely from living in a digital age. They self-market with social media and the increasing popularity of their shows and their own social media documentation of filming along their tour stops adds also to the allure of their tours. It helps too that their shows, while roughly presented, look great. Dead Set on Life in particular looks amazing because of the frequent sweeping aerial shots from drone cameras. The accessibility of this technology to Matheson and crew means that their show looks better than all but the top tier (i.e. Attenborough) of previous travel shows.

Both shows have now run their third seasons. Where will they go next? Can they keep this sort of candid feel? Perhaps this is a new level of convergence which sees journalists required to not only multi-skill but also multi-career and side-hustle in this way? Will the hosts need to adapt and evolve with the VICE as a channel and their own career progressions or is the long-term goal of Vice to buck the trends and adapt a style that seeks to ignore convergence and continue to provide network style television? If so, and if this is post-convergence journalism/media it plays eerily like the pre-convergence.

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