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How Vice and HBO are remaking the evening news for millennials

“It’s 2016. The onus is on us to figure it out,” says Vice News boss Josh Tyrangiel.

Courtesy Vice

When Vice started working on a nightly news show for HBO, the guy who would run it — Executive Vice President Josh Tyrangiel — was blunt about its place in the media landscape.

“When we first started talking about this as an opportunity, the very first thing I said to [Vice CEO] Shane Smith and Richard Plepler at HBO was, ‘You guys know nobody needs this, right?’” Tyrangiel said on the latest episode of Recode Media with Peter Kafka.

He still believes no one in the company’s youthful audience needs a Vice-ified version of a TV newscast every weeknight, but Tyrangiel thinks they’ll want it. Vice News Tonight, which debuted Monday at 7:30 on HBO, is aiming to “add value,” he explained, by deepening viewers’ understanding of the stories they’ve scrolled past on Facebook earlier in the day.

David Remnick at The New Yorker — the world could live without The New Yorker,” Tyrangiel said by way of comparison. “What it does is add value. The stories are great. They’re incredibly well-written, if not always timely.”

So, for example, instead of skipping a story because it’s hard to depict visually, the Vice team might find an animator to dramatize it. And instead of trying to do what NBC, ABC and CBS have been doing for decades, Vice is shedding TV news conventions, starting by not having an anchor or a newsdesk to serve as “home base.”

“One of my pet theories about why viewership among a younger demo declined is that everything that they do, from the theme music to the set to the types of stories, radiates that what they really value is comprehensiveness and authoritativeness,” Tyrangiel said. “That’s what they’re aiming to deliver to you tonight, ‘This is the world.’ But if you can’t do certain kinds of stories because they’re too complicated to read or you don’t have footage, but I know, on my phone, that it happened, then you begin to fall out of step with your audience.”

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