The Evolution of Gawker

Carla Blumenkranz looks at the evolution of Gawker in n+1:

The purpose of Gawker Media was always to improve on the print publishing business model. It was never, as the content of Gawker sometimes seemed to suggest, to produce investigative critiques of the waste that model created. The content at Gawker, like most Condé Nast publications, is a service to the advertisers.

No one ever said Nick Denton was an altruist. But it’s important to note that Gawker Media was designed to compete with the corporations that Gawker abused from the sidelines, because this is what created the dissonance of the site’s later years. From the beginning, it was crucial that Denton hire novice writers for Gawker, not to mention the rest of his titles. These writers came cheap, and they also were useful in their real fascination with their self-important subjects. It was the writers, from Elizabeth Spiers to Emily Gould, who sold Denton’s cynical project to his cynical audience, on the strength of their authentic interest in the material (even when that interest was as conflicted as Choire Sicha’s).

But this agreement between Denton and his hires was based on a misunderstanding. The Gawker editors have always been forthright about the fact that what they wanted was to leave Gawker—its low pay and marginal status—and work for the people they maligned. This stance was supposed to give them more credibility; it was also a form of flattery. Furthermore, it was the truth. But in fact they already were working for a media corporation that functioned more effectively but in the same way as the ones they criticized, and as media players the Gawker editors had become more powerful than many of their targets. Gawker retained the stance of a scrappy start-up and an attitude of populist resentment toward celebrities and insiders, even as it became the flagship publication of an online media empire. The status of Gawker rose as the overall status of its subjects declined, and it was this that made Gawker appear at times a reprehensible bully. You could say that as Gawker Media grew, from Gawker’s success, Gawker outlived the conditions for its existence.

Emily over at Gawker reads Blumenkranz’s piece and has an epiphany.

Later Keith asked me what I thought about Carla’s essay and I said that I didn’t really think she was wrong about anything, except that Jessica Coen had not “grown up in Los Angeles.” By then we were standing high on the F train elevated platform at Smith and 9th Streets. The Statue of Liberty looked like a little dashboard adornment beyond the B.Q.E.

I took a phone call and when I got back, Choire had told Keith he was quitting Gawker. 

“Yup, we’re quitting!”  I said. 

“Because of this?” Keith asked. 

“Sort of. Well, not because it was written. But because it’s not untrue.”

[H/t: Jane Renaud]