Gawking at Gawker
Two weeks ago, Dayna Evans published a story on Medium that has made the rounds about Gawker’s Problem With Women. Nick Denton, the gay male head of Gawker Media, apparently has a rocky history with female employees and a track record of not giving them credit where it’s due. I’ve been reading Gawker since 2004 and a strange shift happened when Jezebel launched in 2007 — it felt like Jezebel became “lady Gawker” and Gawker became a certified boy’s club, which’s odd considering that three of its most recognizable voices before Jezebel’s launch were women — (co-founder) Elizabeth Spiers, Jessica Coen and Emily Gould. Evans’ piece makes plain the systemic devaluing of women’s voices and efforts within Gawker and will leave you nodding and nodding and nodding. But the real zinger in the piece is a quote pulled from Gawker: An Oral History, by Jezebel writer and now-Broadly-editor Tracie Morrissey:
“Emily really ushered in Trojan horse feminism without people realizing it. People were really uncomfortable with a woman in charge of her own narrative and using a platform for a selfish reason. That’s what men fucking do all the time. It was just such shit when she would get shit for it.”
Coincidentally, Gawker Media announced last week that it’ll be retooling itself away from being a site about New York and media towards being a site about politics. Nick Denton says some of the site’s biggest “scoops” have been politics-related, and the upcoming election is a great opportunity for a re-focus to take a “Daily Show” approach to the news. Alex Pareen will remain editor, John Cook will remain Gawker Media’s Executive Editor, Allie Jones and Sam Biddle will be “on the campaign trail” and Ashley Feinberg will “obsessively monitor the dark and hilarious lunatic fringes on the right and left.”
Again, having followed Gawker Media from Day One, this move was surprising, ’cause Gawker already had a “Gawker for Politics” site, which it unloaded in 2008. “You remember us, Wonkette?” recalls Rebecca Schoenkopf in a brilliant retort to the announcement entitled “Dearest Gawker, Won’t You Please Leave Wonkette This Tiny Crust of Bread?” “We are the politics blog that sprang from your loins (gross) and which you then sold almost immediately because you couldn’t figure out how to make money from politics.” Schoenkopgf’s piece really cuts to the heart of how it feels to be an indie when you discover somebody bigger is moving in across the street (There’s still a wordpress draft from 2011 in Autostraddle’s annals containing my personal rant about the launch of HuffPo Gay Voices.) An excerpt from the Wonkette post:
Maybe I am wrong to be a-skeered that you will eat our lunch :( After all, Jane Jacobs, in her lovely little book The Economy of Cities, says that if you sell mops, and another mop store opens up across the street, that is a good thing, as then you are a mop destination, and all of the moppers from all of the places will all come to your neighborhood, for mops. But she didn’t address what would happen if you were a store that sells ONE mop, and then Mop-Mart opened up on your head. But maybe your rising tide will lift our champagne-filled yacht! It could happen! The more the merrier! Let us all be friendly and gay! Shoot us some linkies to our wonderful stories! WE ARE YOUR ORPHANED TINY SISTER, HELP A PAL OUT.
At the time of Wonkette’s 2008 unloading, Nick Denton declared, “political advertisers are a strange breed; they don’t come through the same agencies our sales people deal with.”
According to The Awl, Gawker Media cut a lot of staff along with making this announcement, and staff discovered who’d been fired when they suddenly found themselves unable to log into Slack. In addition to re-orienting Gawker, Gawker Media is folding Gawker’s The Vane, Jezebel’s Millihelen and Kitchenette, Lifehacker’s Workshop and AfterHours, Jalopnik’s Flight Club, and Gizmodo’s Indefinitely Wild and Throb. Pop culture and celebrity coverage will be entirely Jezebel’s wheelhouse (AHEM) and Defamer, Morning After, and Valleywag will shutter. Millhellen’s editor will be writing for The Toast.
Gawker Media is also giving up on developing Kinja, their “open blogging platform,” which is a significant pivot from Denton’s prior claims that Gawker Media was becoming more of a tech company than a media company. Apparently Denton posited Kinja as Gawker’s own personal solution to the movement of media onto social platforms like Facebook, but like many of us, they’ve had to surrender that particular aim.
This just in! Katie Drummond will be the new editor-in-chief of Gizmodo.
This Business of Online Media
+ Talking Points Memo has gotten 2,022 Prime member sign-ups since their membership drive began in June, bringing them up to 8,000 members since launching three years ago. Their goal is 3,000 new members by the end of the year. In this post about the program’s success so far, they explain why so many publishers are moving towards a “direct financial relationship” with their readers — and why they’ll need close to 20,000 subscribers to make it work in the long run. (We’re at 1,649 active paid A+ members! Are you one of them?)
+ The New Yorker‘s paywall is working well, too — and its strongest readership growth is 18-to-34-year-olds. As a 34-year-old subscriber, this feels true.
+ Gawker co-founder Elizabeth Spiers talked to Digiday about her new site Everup, which she says is about personal development, lifestyle design, creativity, productivity and wellness, and will include pop psychology, long-form journalistic features, personal essays, opinion columns and “service-y, how-to pieces.”
+ Under the new leadership of Madhulika Sikka, Mic aims to “expand its coverage and implement more stringent editorial standards.” As of this summer, many of Mic’s staff were unhappy, but Sikka says she’s turning that ship around.
+ The Boston Globe is offering unlimited access to subscribers for a dollar a day, which is three times what most news paywalls ask for — and it’s working?
+ Podcasting in 2015 feels a lot like blogging circa 2004: exciting, evolving, and trouble for incumbents.
+ Can Medium be both a tech company and a media company? (This conversation started when Medium founder Ev Williams’ left a seemingly negative comment on Zak Stone’s Medium post about the death of his father at an airbnb property.)
+ Redbug: it wants to be spotify for indie magazines.
This Business of Publishing & Journalism
+ In other shutdown news! FHM is shutting down, an event which has been declared “a victory for feminism” as it seems men became too embarrassed to read it in public, or even in private, and female stars were reluctant to appear on the cover.
+ Another men’s magazine, Details, published by Condé Nast, is also folding. Condé Nast’s GQ will expand GQ Style to “fill the space left by Details.” This will help everybody who didn’t really know that the difference between GQ and Details was to begin with. They also announced that Glamour and Self‘s ad sales/marketing teams will be combining. In other Condé Nast news, Linda Wells, the founder of Allure Magazine, has been replaced by Michelle Lee, formerly the editor of Nylon.
+ There have been layoffs at Glamour Magazine, Teen Vogue might be on the path towards closing and their digital staff is now reporting to Vogue.com, Self laid off 15 staffers from the print and art side, suggesting a possible upcoming conversion to digital-only.
+ The buyout list at The Los Angeles Times is very sad to read, because they’re losing some of their most experienced and appreciated reporters.
+ National Public Radio’s audience is “shrinking and getting older.” As a member of National Public Radio’s audience, I can confirm that I am also shrinking and getting older.
+ Piano Media is launching a print magazine about publishing.
+ Oyster shut down and everybody’s talking about the viability of Ebooks but there’s a lot of confirmation bias going on, too.
The End Times
+ Social media drove more referrals than search for 2015’s biggest news stories. These are those stories:
+ Sam Biddle on dating app Tinder’s “inside history of spite and contentiousness.” It’s um, pretty bizarre.
+ Your Two Jobs as A Manager (everup)
+ Please Sir, I Want Some More: Friday Chatting About Negotiation (The Billfold)