Cover for October/November 2015 featuring Demi Lovato
|Publisher||Rich Antoniello (CEO, Complex Networks)|
|500,000 in 2012 (self-assessment, may include unsolicited delivery)|
Complex Media Inc.|
(Verizon Hearst Media Partners)
|Based in||New York City|
Complex is a New York–based media platform for youth culture which was founded as a bi-monthly magazine by fashion designer Marc Eckō. Complex reports on trends in style, pop culture, music, sports and sneakers with a focus on niche cultures such as streetwear, sneaker culture, hip-hop, and graphic art. Complex currently reaches over 120 million unique users per month across its owned and operated and partner sites, socials and YouTube channels.
Complex has won numerous accolades, including several from Business Insider such as Most Valuable Startups in New York and Most Valuable Private Companies in the World, as well as the Silicon Alley 100 for Complex CEO Rich Antoniello. In 2012, the company launched Complex TV, an online broadcasting platform that has won numerous awards and has found great success with original shows, such as Complex News, First Look music videos, Fashion Bros and Sneaker Shopping.In 2016, it became a joint-venture subsidiary of Verizon and Hearst.
Complex was established in 2002 by the founder of the Eckō Unltd. brand, Marc Eckō, as a print magazine aimed at providing young males a report of the latest in hip-hop, fashion and pop culture without regard to race. The name Complex evolved from a slogan developed to promote the Eckō Unltd. website: "Ecko.complex". The idea was to create a men's magazine that combined Eckō's streetwear and hip-hop attitude along with the style of Japanese men's magazines by providing consumer guides. This was achieved by creating a magazine in two sections: one traditional magazine, and the other a shopping guide.
In 2005, Complex was joined by the former senior editor of Vibe magazine, Noah Callahan-Bever. He became editor-in-chief and chief content officer a year later; a position he still retains as of February 2014. By 2006, Complex had begun to turn a profit which allowed the magazine to consider an expansion of their online presence. In April 2007, Complex soft-launched a media network with four websites: NahRight, Nice Kicks, SlamxHype and MoeJackson.
In September 2007, Complex launched Complex Media in order to fully capitalize on the trend toward digital content. In 2010, ad sales grew 154%. According to comScore, Complex got 12 million unique hits in March 2012. This encouraged large brands such as Coors, AT&T, Ford, McDonald's, Nike, Adidas and Apple to advertise within the collective. Complex now includes over 100 sites.
In 2011, Complex acquired Pigeons and Planes, an indie music and rap blog, and brought their total sites to 51 with monthly traffic of 25 million uniques. In 2012, Complex launched Four Pins, a humorous menswear site, edited by Fuck Yeah Menswear author Lawrence Schlossman; Sneaker Report, a performance footwear site; and First We Feast, a food culture site edited by former Time Out New York food editor Chris Schonberger. In 2013, Complex launched the dance music site Do Androids Dance and Green Label, a branded content site presented by Mountain Dew. That year, Complex also acquired the sneakerhead culture magazine and website Sole Collector.
In 2013, Complex partnered with Mountain Dew to launch "Green Label" an entertainment and culture website. In 2014, Complex launched an NBA-themed website called "Triangle Offense" in a partnership with Bacardi rum.
In January 2015, Complex announced its acquisition of Collider.com , the online source for movies, television, breaking news, incisive content, and imminent trends. Collider.com reaches over 3 million monthly unique readers (comScore, December 2014) powered by a team of ten writers, including founder and Editor in Chief Steve Weintraub.
Verizon Hearst Media Partners subsidiary (2016-present)
Complex became known early on for its double-sided covers and split format. Complex covers often combined celebrities from across music, film and sports. For example, Mos Def and David Bowie appeared together on the cover of the August/September 2003 issue. Some of Complex's early covers included Nas (May 2002), Tony Hawk and Xzibit (June/July 2002), Ludacris and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (April/May 2003), and Mos Def and David Bowie (August/September 2003). In 2007, Complex gave Kim Kardashian her first ever magazine shoot and cover. Complex has since expanded to interactive digital covers. Most of the covers of Complex magazine demonstrate a distinct difference in how male and female stars are portrayed. Women featured on the covers are frequently shown in various states of undress and seductive poses. Male stars are typically shown fully clothed.
Complex TV launched in 2012 as an online broadcaster of original content. Nathan Brown, a long-time video development and production executive, serves as general manager of Complex TV and Video. In December 2013, a subsidiary of Complex TV, Complex News, was launched, focusing on day-to-day news. In 2014, Pluto.tv added Complex Media as a content partner in an attempt to challenge traditional TV. Complex Content Studio is supported by an 18-person editorial team.
- Magnum Opus
- Hot Ones
- Fashion Bros!
- Desus vs. Mero
- This Week on Netflix
- Mero in the Wild
- The Neighborhood
- The Combat Jack Show
- Complex Individuals
- No Debate
- Trailer Hitch
- Ratchet News Network
- The Process
- First Look
- Riff Raff Realm
- Complex Kids
- Cut & Show
In 2014, Complex launched "Fashion Bros", featuring Complex style editors Lawrence Schlossman and James Harris as hosts. The show discusses the good and the bad of menswear fashion. The show has drawn attention from The New York Times, Buzzfeed, The Hollywood Reporter, among others.
Key staff and contributors
- Rich Antoniello, CEO
- Noah Callahan-Bever, Editor-in-Chief and Chief Content Officer
- Moksha Fitzgibbons, Chief Revenue Officer
- Scott Cherkin, EVP, Product & Business Development
- Brent Rollins, Creative Director
- Joe LaPuma, Director of Content Strategy
- Russ Bengtson, Editor of Sneakers
- Lawrence Schlossman, Editor-in-Chief of Four Pins
Complex owned and operated sites
- TheRideChannel.com, in partnership with Tony Hawk's 900 Films
- GreenLabel.com, in partnership with Mountain Dew
Complex partner sites
- InfiniteLegroom.com, in partnership with A-Trak
- and many more
Complex YouTube O&O and partner channels
- /DjVlad aka VladTV
- /Kustoo aka Jacques Slade
- /YoAnty Kicks
- and many more
In 2013 Digiday stated Complex was one of the publishers that "acts like an agency" based on their branded content and brand partnerships. In 2013 alone, Complex created an average of 47 pieces of content a month on behalf of major brands, including McDonalds, Gillette, Levi’s, Toyota, Adidas and others. It also partnered with Pepsico to launch GreenLabel.com, a Mountain Dew branded lifestyle site that’s staffed by Complex’s editorial employees. Green Label currently attracts over twice the traffic as MountainDew.com. Later in 2013, Complex worked with Dr. Pepper to a series of videos aimed at young males featuring producer/songwriter The-Dream.
In 2011, Complex was named one of "The 30 Most Valuable Internet Startups In New York" by Business Insider. The following year Complex was named one of "The Most Valuable, Private Companies In The World" with an estimated valuation of $250 million.
In popular culture
Lil Wayne and Jay-Z
In the December/January 2007 issue, Lil Wayne announced that he had superseded Jay-Z: "It's not your house anymore and I'm better than you," Lil Wayne said. Jay-Z responded shortly after, discouraging Lil Wayne from smoking "cannabis" on a guest verse on rapper T.I.'s song "Watch What You Say". Lil Wayne responded on a track called "Beat Without Bass", by the rapper Freekey Zekey, saying: "You old-ass rappers better stay on tour. You're like forty-four, I got a .44, I'm twenty-four. I could murk you and come home when I'm forty-four."
Kim Kardashian photo
In 2009, AnimalNewYork.com reported that Complex had posted a digitally unenhanced version of April/May issue cover star Kim Kardashian. Complex swapped the enhanced image on their site, but not before the unenhanced version had gone viral. Kardashian responded to the incident on her blog, saying: "So what: I have a little cellulite. What curvy girl doesn't!?" She went on to say that she was "proud" of her body, posting behind-the-scenes pictures of the shoot on her website. The incident was covered by a variety of online publications including Huffington Post, NY Daily News, Business Insider, Gawker, and others.
Uncovering the whereabouts of Earl Sweatshirt
In 2011, Odd Future member Thebe Kgositsile, better known by his stage name Earl Sweatshirt, had discontinued making public appearances with the group and making music entirely. His whereabouts remained a mystery with various outlets reporting different stories. In 2011, Complex was the first to report the true location of the missing member of Odd Future. He had been checked into Coral Reef Academy in Samoa, a retreat for at-risk boys. Earl Sweatshirt eventually returned to the United States in 2012.
In January, 2013, Four Pins broke the news that the streetwear clothing line of Kanye West's creative director Virgil Abloh had screenprinted blank flannel shirts made by the Rugby Ralph Lauren brand and re-sold them for 700% mark-up, suggesting that some stores had marketed the shirts by photoshopping the Rugby tags out of the images on their online stores.
Balthazar bathroom attendant scandal
On November 4, 2013, FirstWeFeast broke news that the proprietor of popular Soho brasserie Balthazar, Keith McNally, would continue employing his bathroom attendants in a different capacity after previously stating they would be relieved of their jobs. The CEO of Business Insider, Henry Blodget, had initially prompted their dismissal in a blog post on his website, but following the deluge of press about the firings, McNally told FirstWeFeast they would remain employees of Balthazar.
Wale threatens Complex staff
On December 11, 2013, Complex writer Insanul Ahmed received a call from rapper Wale complaining that his latest album, The Gifted, had not been included on Complex's "50 Best Albums of 2013" list. A portion of the conversation was recorded and posted on the Complex website and on Complex TV on December 13. Wale could be heard threatening: "Get the security ready." According to Complex, Wale refused requests to meet, but he did post a humorous Instagram video that day which made light of the situation. Wale, later appearing on Hot97, said that his fall-out with Kid Cudi had something to do with the snub, and that he was not "begging Williamsburg hipsters" to like his music. Wale was referring to the October/November 2010 issue of Complex in which Kid Cudi said: "We don't fuck with you musically." The quote quickly went viral.
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