Hearst last week announced it was investing $21 million minority share in Complex Media, which is known as a digital media company targeting young males. The investment follows money Hearst has invested in Vice Media, BuzzFeed, United Artists Media Group, and AwesomenessTV. Complex now employs 331 employees, split between its offices in New York and Los Angeles. The company says it will crank up its video out put with Complex CEO Rich Antoniello, stating. “As we look toward further expansion in digital and linear entertainment, Complex will have access to the extensive expertise, scale and partnerships that only a global media company like Hearst could offer.”
Complex was founded as a magazine in 2002 by Marc Ecko, and in 2007 it launched an online site, followed shortly thereafter by a media network (which once included this site when it was under the HighSnobiety masthead). Now Complex owns and runs a media network including over 100 sites. It also provides content and runs a site called GreenLabel for soda brand Mountain Dew. Hearst is by no means its first investor, in 2009, it received $12.8 million from Accel Partners and Austin Ventures, and in 2013, an injection of $23 million from Iconix.
While on the one hand it’s great to see a progressive news site like Complex grow and expand its reach, on the other hand it unabashedly is focused on reaching the male reader. In fact, while Hearst is known for its ownership of women’s magazines Elle and Cosmopolitan, the commonality of all the online sites Hearst has invested in is that they are all run by white, male CEOs.
It’s not just a Hearst trend, according to Pew Research, the top ten most visited sites also are similarly homogeneous. Of course this should not be so shocking, according to Forbes, the number of women running Fortune 500 companies last year hit at an all-time high of womp-womp 4.8 percent.
While being run by a white guy doesn’t make a company “bad,” it does mean that a lot of news we see online comes through a very similar lens. Ultimately it’s a bit disheartening that as the online media empires of this century begin to grow and take shape, they’re still far too few women and minorities represented at the top.
What it does mean though, is to really keep your question-everything cap on. Just because every site in the world may seem to share a narrow set of opinions about a news story or celebrity or even a piece of music, doesn’t mean there aren’t 16 other angles, not to mention loads of stories and people that should be but aren’t being reported on. There’s a reason some news stories bubble to the surface and they aren’t because they’re the most deserving.