LONDON, United Kingdom — Amuse, the lifestyle site launched in 2015 by youth media juggernaut Vice, is being repositioned as a luxury travel publication pitched at affluent, experience-seeking readers. The property was previously conceived as an offshoot of Vice’s fashion bible i-D.
The brainchild of Vice fashion and luxury group president Tammy Smulders and executive editor Michael Polsinelli, the new Amuse, launching April 16, will skew male, with an emphasis on upscale adventures and tricked-out gear. (Noted British explorer and environmental activist David de Rothschild is not only Amuse’s editor-at-large, he’s also emblematic of its target audience.)
Following a playbook Vice has deployed with other titles, Amuse will be video-driven. The new site will launch with a five-part original film series documenting Rugby World Cup winner Will Greenwood on a trek to the North Pole and feature content built around five key themes: Adventure, Antidote (wellness), Appetite, Apparel and Agenda.
The reboot follows the arrival of Smulders, who joined Vice from Havas’ LuxHub in the autumn of 2017 and reviewed the company’s fashion and luxury portfolio soon afterwards. (The burgeoning group currently includes i-D, acquired in 2012; Garage, acquired in 2016; a content studio and a consulting service.)
“In order for Amuse to achieve its potential, it needed to have its own identity and purpose in the marketplace,” Smulders said, noting a survey she conducted in 2017 of consumers aged 18 to 26, who were asked what they would want to spend $10,000 on if they could only spend it on only one thing. A majority 62 percent said experiences.
In order for Amuse to achieve its potential, it needed to have its own identity and purpose in the marketplace.
“Looking at the best-performing areas of [the site], we saw an unmet need in the market around the luxury travel and experience,” she added. “It’s really taking a very different direction, being cut loose from i-D and exploring the luxury space.” Commercially, the move is designed to attract luxury advertisers — Hermès was secured a launch sponsor.
Over the past few years, several publishers have developed products aimed at the affluent male consumer, including Condé Nast — which revamped the American version of GQ Style in 2016 — and the New York Times, which launched a monthly section dedicated to men’s style in 2015. Vice, with its male-skewing audience, universally admired documentary programming and coveted relationships with advertisers, arguably has a leg up. (Vice says it reaches "hundreds of millions of people globally" each month across platforms.)
However, Vice has also faced challenges in the months following a New York Times investigation of sexual misconduct at the company, which resulted in two top executives being put on leave in January 2018, including president Andrew Creighton, who oversaw the acquisition of i-D.
HR woes aside, travel journalism presents its own set of challenges. The medium is tricky to get right online because it’s largely divorced from the news cycle, making it more difficult to attract repeat readers. Amuse’s tongue-in-cheek tone could help. For example, the site will feature a piece on alternatives to Soho Farmhouse — the posh man’s Disneyland — and offshoots of Burning Man, the hippie festival-turned-tech industry gathering that takes place in northern Nevada each summer.
The site will also include travel-adjacent wellness, lifestyle and shopping content to keep things fresh. "Amuse is very much about a lifestyle and mindset - the global explorer," Smulders aid. "Men and women who are adventurous and want to travel far and wide, explore their city, head out for the weekend, dine out a few nights per week, always with a sense of style."
As for Smulders, the re-imagining of Amuse is a hint of her wider plans for the Vice Fashion and Luxury Group. “We certainly do have some other projects in development right now,” she revealed. “When I looked at the portfolio, I asked, ‘What do people care about? What are people interested in?’ The big conversation out there in general right now is around this idea of experiences.”