Tag Archives: Gawker

Gawker makes first acquisition/fires editor

Gawker boss Nick Denton has made his first acquisition and bought New York City blog CityFile. At the same time he has axed his editor-in-chief who in true Gawker style got to blog departure.

CityFile, which chronicles the movers and shakers in New York’s media, finance, and politics circles, is to be folded into Gawker.com and will become the New York and media industry channel on the site joining the likes of Defamer and Valleywag.

The acquisition was announced on Gawker in the shape of two memos that were published as part of a post by editor Gabriel Snyder who Denton revealed is being replaced by Remy Stern who founded CityFile.

“Okay, this is weird. But here are two internal memos. One affecting me, the other by me. Nick has just announced that Gawker’s acquiring CityFile. As part of that deal, I’m losing my job. Now that they are out there, may as well put them here,” Snyder posted.

Stern is a former writer on several Gawker sites and worked as an editor at the now defunct Radar magazine, which ran on an off over a period of years in New York between 2003 and 2008, before going on to set up CityFile.

Snyder’s memo (Subject: Farewell): “For reasons which I’m not too clear on, but I’m sure Nick Denton will explain momentarily, I am being replaced as editor-in-chief of Gawker.

“Honesty is Gawker’s only virtue, so it seems inappropriate to engage in the usual corporate euphemisms of ‘wanting to explore new opportunities’ or ‘take a larger role in the company’ or  ‘spend more time with my family’ (though eighteen-hour days and seven-day work weeks do take their toll on personal relationships), so I’ll put this as plainly as we’d report any other masthead ouster: I am being canned.”

Synder was offered another “temporary position” by Denton as “an assistant managing editor of Gawker Media” but he said he turned that down”. Well you would, wouldn’t you? He did 18 months and he said so himself later in his memo, in a Ferris Bueller-esque nod, that “Gawker Media careers shows that they tend to burn bright and fast”.

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It’s so bad at Conde Nast: Graydon Carter spotted in the canteen

Job elimination experts McKinsey & Co are currently touring Conde Nast’s New York office with one of those people zapper phasers. Okay, it’s a spreadsheet really, but the end result is all the same. No job is apparently safe unless you work at the New Yorker magazine.

The New York Observer has a long piece about the McKinsey’s visit to Conde Nast’s building at 4 Times Square, where the management consultancy firm is reviewing the way the magazine firm does business from top to bottom.

The piece has lots of telling observations and interviews from various editors about how bad things in the once super-glamorous magazine company (hey it must be, they put in two movies*) have got that even Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter has been seen, get this, in the staff cafeteria. Seriously. Apparently, he was checking out the stir fry options and looking uncomfortable. Maybe he was wondering if people really ate the food? Just a thought.

“I saw Graydon in the cafeteria this week!” said one business-side insider told the New York Observer. “In all my years here, I’ve never seen him in my life there. He was behind me in the line at checkout with his little swipe card. He was milling around uncomfortably with the commoners.”

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You’ve been blogged: money for nothing and content for free

The Washington Post has a good natured piece that is well worth a read on the liberties blogs take when swiping other people’s content as they distil hours and sometimes days of work into as little 30 minutes.

In his piece ‘The Death of Journalism (Gawker Edition)’, Ian Shapira writes about his recent Washington Post piece about a life coach explaining Generation Y to Gens Xers and boomers (‘Guru Explains Gens X, Y, Boomer To One Another’), which was taken by Gawker.

He explains that despite his long interview with the coach, his 3,000 words of notes and 1,500 word finished piece he was flattered to have Gawker blog and link to his piece.

But then having spoke to his boss he slowly realised that he’d been had. Or more precisely, he’d been blogged.

“Gawker’s story featured several quotations from the coach and a client, and neatly distilled Loehr’s biography — information entirely plucked from my piece. I was flattered. But when I told my editor, he wrote back: They stole your story. Where’s your outrage, man?

“The more I toggled between my editor’s e-mail and the eight-paragraph Gawker item, the angrier I got, and the more disenchanted I became with the journalism business. I enjoy reading Gawker and the growing number of news sites like it — the Huffington Post, the Daily Beast and others — but lately they’re making me even more nervous about my precarious career as a newspaper reporter who enjoys, at least for the time being, a salary, a 401(k) (pension plan) and health insurance.

It is easy to understand why his editor might have taken that view. Gawker took extensive quotes and as with everything in blogosphere it took it for free.

Shapira goes on to say that he spoke to the Gawker blogger (who spent 30 minutes blogging the WaPo piece) and finally how he spoke to Gawker boss Nick Denton, who, smart guy that he is, knew just how the reporter felt and that he too felt the pain of people taking his content, saying he would “love to shut down or charge” the Twitter aggregators and spam blogs that reprint Gawker’s stories.

Oh yeah, but as for that WaPo piece in particular? “That was certainly more of an excerpt than we’d normally indulge in,” Denton said.

I thought about calling this blog post “How I spent hours writing this feature and all I got were a few lazy blog posts” because that seems to highlight the core idea in this debate about the worth of content. The Washington Post invested resources, time and money in that piece. Gawker did little, but scored traffic and income on the back of it.

It’s a big debate, some want to stop blogs taking so much for free. Its outcome will impact on the future of newspapers and play a role in any plans they have to charge for content.

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Blog profits, the apocalypse is off

In the UK last week blogging outfit Shiny Media went into administration, but across the pond Nick Denton’s Gawker is in rude health despite his apocalyptic predictions.

Last Autumn Denton grabbed a few headlines when he said we should be preparing for a decline of up to 40% in advertising revenues. What he actually said was: “Anyone who isn’t prepared for ads to go down 40% is crazy.”

Well there has certainly been a lot of craziness since. Today Denton reveals the good news. First-half revenues at Gawker were up 45% as its ad growth continues pretty much uninterrupted. Nice work.

He’s even updated his apocalyptic chart. Awesome, you have to respect someone who takes time out from the apocalypse (I mean there’s all that Evian, cans of Heinz baked beans and flashlights to stock up on and that takes time) and updates the chart.

Obviously, Denton didn’t sit around waiting for the apocalypse, he took steps. Were they apocalyptic steps? He cut staff and closed sites as Gawker reduced the number of blogs it publishes from 15 to nine. This included the axing of Defamer.com and incorporating it into Gawker.

But it wasn’t the cuts alone that paid off. As Denton puts it:

“The plunge has already been pretty terrifying for a range of companies from Yahoo and IAC to the newspapers. But I was wrong in one respect: a few premium internet brands, Gawker’s among them, have withstood the advertising apocalypse.”

“Sometimes there’s consolation to be found in congenital pessimism; I’d rather be wrong and thriving than right and dead.”

As for Shiny Media, the sites (like Shiny Shiny) are gathering digital dust despite talk they might be bought. Interesting blog post here, however, by a former Shiny Media staffer who says one of the problems was the errrm lack of traffic and ads.

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Blogs are big business…just not here

With Shiny Media going into administration yesterday there is a timely piece in the FT today on blogs. Yes, they’re big business in the US (its like the FT just noticed), but here start-ups have struggled to replicate the success of the Huffington Post and Gawker. Is the UK simply too small?

We wrote about Shiny Media’s fall last night and Lisa Devaney has blogged about it here as well. A real shame to see it fail. Maybe its strategy wasn’t all there, it certainly had missteps along the way (like
its move into football that resulted in Who Ate All The Pies being put up for sale), but I think the people at Shiny produced some very good work and ultimately it appears to have been a small publisher hit by the recession.

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When blogs grow up: HuffPo invests, but niggling questions remain

Big news at the Huffington Post with a $1.75m investment in investigative reporting signalling the continued expansion of blogs beyond linking and comment, but some are also wondering if this is at all connected to the thorny issue of content scraping and possible legal action?

Content scraping is where blogs take an excerpt, usually not toooo much, and link to the original post, but some blogs have recently been accused of whole sale content theft. That’s taking not just the odd paragraph, but the the whole article. The Huffington Post is one of those blogs in the firing line.

MinnPost.com for one thinks the $1.75m fund for investigative reporting is window dressing for a site that could be sued for “oversharing others’ work”.

Oversharing is such a polite way of putting it. You have to wonder how much investigative reporting these ten people will do when some are freelancers and their job description will include short breaking news stories as well as longer pieces?

The alternative weekly the Chicago Reader was one of several papers to recently complain about the Huffington Post’s practice of “oversharing”.

“The Huffington Post’s local ‘aggregation wing straight stole our entire Bon Iver Critic’s Choice–they didn’t ask permission (‘read the whole article’? that is the whole article, dumbass). Here’s a screen shot since we’re obviously about to ask them to take it down.”

Film critic Roger Ebert was also a little hacked off with the Huffington Post and vocalised his discontent beneath the offending article:

“I would like to point out that this article rips off my actual article about the incident at rogerebert.com, and by adding all those ‘he saids,’ destroys the rhythm and form of my prose. Nor does the article even have the decency to link to mine, perhaps because it would be embarrassing to see that HuffPost stole it from me. Nor does it even say where I ‘said’ these things, but implies I said them to HuffPost. Arriana, I love ya, but this practice is immoral, and HuffPost practices it shamelessly.”

Arriana Huffington said in the press release about the investigative fund that it would provide “work and a platform for seasoned journalists downsized by major media outlets”, which is all well and good, but Gawker wonders how much experience these people will have in a post headlined ‘Arianna Huffington Seeks Young Flunkies’ where it reprinted a job ad for a managing editor, which is looking for two years experience in online news and a degree.

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Would you buy a failing newspaper?

Serious question as there is more talk about saving US newspapers and turning some of them into non-profit foundations. Staff at the San Francisco Chronicle are talking of a foundation bid for the paper (sort of like the Guardian) in an effort to save it with names like Craig Newmark floated as buyers/investors.

News of the San Francisco Chronicle follows similar talk earlier this week from philanthropist Eli Broad about the Los Angeles Times, whose owner Tribune is in trouble.

Broad said that the US can’t afford to lose good newspaper journalism, but added a caveat which was that he wasn’t sure that the Los Angeles Times could “be a national paper, or have the same aspirations it once had”.

Basically Broad is talking about reduced circumstances. About once great newspapers no longer being so great; local rather than national, which will certainly be the case with the Chronicle or any other paper that someone tried to save.

Broad also said (and it is a stumbling block for all) that “no one has figured out a good business model as of yet. Newspapers ought to be owned by foundations, not look for great financial returns. If several foundations are involved there is likely to be journalistic freedom”.

Let’s face it, the same thing could happen in the UK to the Independent. You could imagine people trying (and sadly failing) to save it in the not too distant future.

The Indy of all papers is in serious trouble. Sales of the Independent News & Media title were down 18.41% year on year to around 205,964 copies,

San Francisco Chronicle journalists are trying to talk investors into buying the foundering daily newspaper and restructuring it as a non-profit, according to the SF Appeal.

Apparently journalists would invest some of their own cash, a California Media Workers Guild representative at the San Francisco Chronicle told the Appeal, but even after a heavy write down from Hearst’s 2000 price of $660m they would need some serious money.

Gawker took at guess at who might buy the paper:

Old San Francisco money: if anyone is going to put cash into a hemorrhaging newspaper it is local billionaires.

New dotcom money: Seems a long shot, but maybe in a crazy moment of retroness those rich Google types might go for it. Maybe not.

Craig Newmark: is another the gossip site raises. The San Francisco-based Craigslist founder is a bit more altruistic than many of his Web 2.0 generation. Besides, with Craigslist he helped kill the newspaper market, so let’s face it he owes them. But even with his many millions he would need help from fellow multi millionaires. Craigslist makes around $100m a year, but the Chronicle is losing $50m.

Maybe predictably Gawker concluded that the outcome is more likely to be “it makes little sense to invest in fixing the old problems of a dying industry when you can net much more glory or profit starting from scratch”.

But who would enter a dying industry from scratch when the problem appears to have been is in the basic maths?

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"The layoff will be blogged" – blogging the downturn

Good piece in the New York Times today on how “the layoff will be blogged”. It picks up on how this downturn is more public than any before it with bloggers covering not only each other’s but their own departures as well.

Oddly, and dispiritingly, some people are even reading about their own layoffs on blogs. The paper reports on Elon Musk, chief executive of the electric-car company Tesla Motors in San Carlos, Calif., who said (get this) “he had no choice other than to blog about the Oct. 15 layoffs at the closely watched company — even though some employees had not yet been told they were losing their jobs”.

The Gawker Media Valleywag blog gets a mention (you know the one that said blogging is dead. Lol), which is publishing a lot of the job losses in Silicon Valley where the geekstream is broadcasting departures as they happen via blogs, sites like Techcrunch  and Twitter feeds.

The papers says that the tendency to blog layoffs is one that is going to spread to companies of all sizes and in all industries. It quotes Rusty (love the name) Rueff, a former human resources executive at Electronic Arts and PepsiCo, saying “whatever you say inside of a company will end up on a blog. That is kind of scary, not to mention a little dangerous for those still in employment  (so I can’t tell you about the secret memo I just got, sorry). So you have a choice as a company — you can either be proactive and take the offensive and say, ‘Here’s what’s going on’, or you can let someone else write the story for you”.

One company more than most has learnt this the hard way – USA Today-owner Gannett. When it told staff it was laying off 10% one journalists, Jim Hopkins, set up an unofficial Gannett Blog, which has since been writing daily about the rise and fall of Gannett since August.

Gannett doesn’t have a company blog. No shocker there as many companies do not. Who gives them advice? Oh right PR firms many of whom still don’t get it. Yet.

It also mentions Steven Carpenter, chief executive of a two-year-old investing advice site, Cake Financial, who blogged the night before he laid off 30% of staff and directly after he met them.

“It let them know what we were up to in real time, so they didn’t get nervous about what was going on,” he said.

Okay so some of this is new, but some people sure have short memories. Having sat through the dotcom boom and bust does no one remember Fucked Company? Fucked Company reported many thousand job lost in the last Dotcom boom bust circa 2001. Although, Fucked Company, as its homepage tells you, has long been frakked itself like many of the sites and companies it reported on.

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Why blogging is far from dead

You had better stop reading this as blogging is dead. Seriously, I just read it. Some wag at Wired says there is too much social media, and blogging is, like, so 2004. What rubbish.

According to Paul Boutin, who writes for Silicon Valley gossip site Valleywag, writing a blog today isn’t the bright idea it was four years ago as the blogosphere, “once a freshwater oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of paid bilge”.

Tsunami of paid-for bilge? It was worth reading the piece for that alone. I laughed out loud, as this rant was clearly marked “paid bilge” as someone hit the publish button. 

He goes on to say that “cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns now drown out the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths” and it is almost impossible to get noticed, except by hecklers.

His line is why bother? – you are better off expressing yourself on Facebook, Flickr or Twitter.

His argument seems to be those folksy blogs where people wrote about their humdrum day to day lives or, ahem, subjects such as politics or dating have been replaced by impersonal professional sites.

You mean like Valleyway? The site he writes for that is part of Nick Denton’s media blog empire Gawker. Do you think he is talking at all about himself when he writes about “cut-rate journalists”? I’m emailing him right now. I’m just going to say this: does the phrase “pot kettle, kettle black” mean nothing to you? Try it out and take it for a spin. I think you might like it.

Swipes aside, on one level he has a point. The world is full of professional blogs in 2008 and marketers have entered the fray. The medium has grown and matured. New players and types of blog have entered the market. In places it has got professional, there are powerful blogs out there like the Huffington Post, and that is to be applauded for what it has brought us.

Newspapers like the Guardian have also thrived with sites like Comment is Free. All good news I say. Who wants to see the blogging wither and die? Not me for one. I enjoy this too much.

A lot of those early bloggers got bored and moved on as the novelty of writing an online came and went. My first blog ran for a few years and virtually all of the links that I had on my blogroll have died, but not all.

Yes social media, micro blogging and multi media sites are all the rage, but there is a place for all here. I use Facebook, Twitter and have flirted with a bunch of other social media sites but not, errr, committed. Blogging offered, and still does, a space to put down a sentence and a link or 500 words. Whatever caught your fancy that day. He complains in the piece that text-based sites aren’t where the buzz is anymore, which is true but the buzz moves on and what it leaves behind is the substance.

For B2B sites like Brand Republic, blogging is very important. We’ve built up, and continue to do so, a network of bloggers with a variety of things to say. Some might post a picture, a piece of video or like me they might type for a good while before stopping.

Blogging is alive and kicking. Okay, I need to let me fellow Twitters know what I’ve been doing in the long form.

[Twitter]

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Is the advertising industry homophobic?

It’s the question of the year.
Today there is a guy with a funny walk being shot at by Mr T in a 4×4. Before
that it was Nike and its Dunkin’ ad. Bob Garfield has got so fired up he wrote
a letter about it to John Wren. Is it a storm in a tea-cup?

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