Monday, February 15th, 2010

Nick Denton asks Gawker Editor To Step Down, Purchases Cityfile

STERNNick Denton has de facto fired Gawker editor Gabriel Snyder; and announced the purchase of Cityfile. On Friday, Snyder announced Gawker's record traffic. Remy Stern is now the editor of Gawker. (Stern, a founder of Cityfile, has desired the top Gawker job since at least 2004.) Two memos circulated in-house, dated one minute apart.

From Denton's memo regarding Cityfile, sent to the staff:

For the first few years of Gawker Media, the business press had one
abiding preoccupation: when are you going to sell out? Today we're
giving the M&A gossips something else to talk about. The company is
making its first acquisition: Cityfile, the New York news site founded
by Remy Stern. The price is not being disclosed.

Cityfile will be the New York and media industry channel on Gawker,
alongside Valleywag and Defamer, our tech and entertainment sub-sites.
Cityfile's 2,000-plus profiles of New York notables will be the
centerpiece of our new topic and people pages. And Remy Stern, a
former writer on several Gawker sites and editor at the now-legendary
Radar magazine, will take over as editor-in-chief of Gawker. He starts
on February 22nd.

We had hoped to persuade Gabriel Snyder to stay in a management role.
But he's moving on. With help from an awesomely strong team of writers
and the new operation, Gabriel doubled Gawker's audience
during his tenure ( To anyone out there looking
to build up an online property: snap him up quickly.

Does this mean Gawker is going on an acquisition spree?

Well, it's a question of scale. Each of the Gawker titles does already
have more than 1m US visitors a month — making them usually the
largest or second largest blog title in their category. Nevertheless
the threshold of advertising success does continue to rise and we're
increasingly competing online with TV and newspaper groups.
Moreover, we've long actively managed our portfolio of properties,
selling Consumerist to Consumers Union last year, for instance — or
closing down unsuccessful properties. To achieve critical mass in
entertainment and tech, we have indeed looked at a few opportunities
in the last few months. If online media is consolidating, we'd rather
be a consolidator than consolidatee. And revenue growth of 22% in 2009
provides the resources. (Deal ideas? Contact Gaby Darbyshire.)
Don't get too excited, however. The successful launches of Jezebel and
io9 confirmed our belief that it's usually more effective to build
than buy. Lifted by the iPad launch and the late-night TV wars, our
nine sites — all launched inhouse — drew a US audience of more than
14m in January. Our best editorial investment continues to be the
recruitment of great writers and producers on our own sites — and the
pursuit of hot stories.

From Gabriel Snyder's goodbye memo:

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 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

Building this website into what it is today — a big operation with 11
writers, a regular source of national news and a challenger to the
mainstream media organizations that it once mocked — has been the
best job of my career. Transitioning from print to online meant
adopting an entirley new biorhythm. Transitioning from writer to
editor has meant learning to bask in the reflected glory of the
talented staff who contribute every day. I love Gawker and adore the
crew that makes it happen.

You deserve all the credit; my role has been to push you to be
yourselves: Alex Pareene's incisive political commentary, John Cook's
dogged reporting and clear-headed analysis, Brian Moylan's ability to
enunciate conversation-starting ideas, Richard Lawson's ability to
produce dazzling copy at superhuman speeds, Ryan Tate's cliche-free
coverage of Silicon Valley, Hamilton Nolan's workhorse ethic and
humor, Doree Shafrir's gimlet-eyed appraisals of the culture and
society around her. Waking up each morning to the work of Adrian Chen,
Maureen O'Connor and Ravi Somaiya is a pleasure. Watching Foster Kamer
dance on the stage each weekend is a joy. You, without a doubt, make
up the strongest staff Gawker's ever had, and make the site the best
it's ever been.

Eighteen months ago, when I first sat down with Nick to discuss taking
over the Gawker helm from him, I saw a huge opportunity to build a
site from its roots as an intimate discussion among Manhattan's power
elite and build it into a national news brand (an aspiration that
seems to come up every time there's a masthead shakeup around here).
Attaining those goals have been the biggest accomplishment of my
career. As I saw it, Facebook, Twitter and smaller blogs had slowly
encroached on the role Gawker once served. Among the most difficult,
though most rewarding to the site, efforts was to take the site from a
bankers' hours schedule to publishing 24 hours around the clock,
weekends included. I believed the site could be grown beyond its
traditional audience by focusing on news from the nation's four
cultural capitals (New York, D.C., L.A. and San Francisco) — which
became even more clear when I was given the task of integrating former
standalone sites Defamer and Valleywag into the flagship. Oh, and then
there have been the stories. It's become common to see national
newspapers and broadcasts cite Gawker on vast array of stories: the
U.S. Kabul embassy security dudes behaving badly, the Hipster Grifter
saga, leading the entire media for a weekend on the Balloon Boy
fiasco, those pictures of Katie Couric dancing, pillorying Harold Ford
through simple questions, Annie Leibovitz's financial meltdown, the
Late Night Wars, Facebook privacy, Anna Wintour … more than I can
count. I was determined to compete with the biggest news sites on the
internet. And today, I am glad to say it does.

But the history of Gawker Media careers shows that they tend to burn
bright and fast. So it shouldn't have come as a much of a surprise
when our mercurial owner told me he's hatched other plans for Gawker.
He offered me a new, temporary position as an assistant managing
editor of Gawker Media as a holding job, which I have declined. I
can't see how I'd be in a position to succeed at the role going into
it with one foot literally out the door. I'll be editing the site
until Friday. After that, please stay in touch [REDACTED].

And needless to say, as of now I am on the market and will be beating
the media bushes for my next opportunity.

I will miss you all.


76 Comments / Post A Comment

Abe Sauer (#148)

Dan Abrams' head just 'sploded.

David Cho (#3)


Vulpes (#946)

Somewhere, Ian Spiegelman just spontaneously ejaculated.

Also, is it just me or is "enunciate conversation-starting ideas" the most backhanded compliment ever?

sunnyciegos (#551)

It was an improvement over what he initially wrote, which was "further embiggen our uniques stats."

Jasmine (#8)

Eh, he's a bit of a weak link, in my mind. Not sure what I'd have said either…

conklin (#364)

Moylan is Perez Hilton run through MS Word's auto-correction and thesaurus.

Presented without commentary:

Cory (#271)

The whole Gabriel thing aside, basically, YES.

I remember an article/interview/something from a few years ago where Nick Denton said something about having very little/no interest in acquiring existing properties, and preferring to instead hire the writer because that's where the value was? And this seems to be exactly that, except in this case the particular writer had branded and incorporated?

Is the issue about acquisition here one of quality, i.e, when one buys something with little to no value, can it be termed an "acquisition," or quantity, i.e, the $ "new owner" Denton sank into this thing in the first place?

KarenUhOh (#19)

The guy never passes up the chance to explain in 2,000 words why you have to say stuff in 100.

A) Yes. B) Additional points to you for concision.

Why do I get the feeling that any time things get too successful over there, Nick feels the need remind us who's in charge? He's almost seems like a meddlesome 1970s baseball owner or something.

(I didn't mean to post that as a response to Karen's comment … dunno how that happened.)

davidwatts (#72)

Very strongly agree. I feel like it has something to do with keeping the brand bigger than the contributor. And keeping the costs low.

conklin (#364)

Gawker to Denton is like the garage to Jay Leno. If there's a car that he likes better for some reason he doesn't think about the one being displaced. And why should he? He's an obscenely rich guy who is doing this not because he ever has to make a cent off of it but because what the hell else is going to do with his piles of money and limitless time? He's a hobbyist and a tinkerer. You know, like a '70s baseball owner.

So um, yeah, Leno is Steinbrenner. I guess. My metaphors are all a-jumble.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Denton is Al Davis.

Pop Socket (#187)

What happened to the 200 words or less policy? Gawker articles were getting indistinguishable from New Yorker pieces.

La Cieca (#1,110)

Except for the horrific grammar and dearth of logical thought, yes.

tigolbitties (#2,150)

two questions:
1. should i like this remy stern person or not?
2. most importantly… does this mean cajun boy will back?!?!?

NinaHagen (#131)

Why don't you just mash your fingers into the keyboard? Maybe then you would hit the Shift key.

tigolbitties (#2,150)

i tHINK i'M dOING it wRONG? :-0

1-2ChaChaCha (#1,268)

I have to agree about Cajun Boy. I miss him on Gawker.

KarenUhOh (#19)

Oh. And, now that you're even huger and smartyer and more profoundly mattersome than even, I'm it'll soon be time to cut pay again.

Get going on that memo.

KarenUhOh (#19)

I'm "sure" it'll soon be time, is what I meant to say.

FLUSTERED. See what you do to me, you strong and marvelous Man?

Jim Behrle (#3,292)

I blame the haikus

iPud (#3,205)

Poetry! No Gabe;
The American Uniques,
Want Paris, not prose.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Also: "a challenger to the mainstream media organizations that it once mocked"

Gawker is a great success but this is just wildly untrue.

manchops (#419)

well, I guess I'm onboard here now

Flashman (#418)

Greetings 419

iPud (#3,205)

I bet the atmosphere isn't great in the Gawker offices right now.

iPud (#3,205)

I mean; don't they all sit next to each other? Were the staff reading the memos as Denton and Snyder try to get on with their work, or what?

hockeymom (#143)

From the comments over there, he's headed toward The Awl. In fact, you should check your front door. He might be standing on the stoop.

BoHan (#29)

Throw him in the snow & film it!

Multiphasic (#411)

It's kind of interesting that Denton grabbed Cityfile, of all things, which would've been a helluva resource to Gawker circa whatshisname's, Corey Szechuan or something's, editorship.

TroutSavant (#1,990)

Thank you! I've been wondering how to pronounce Choire's last name forever. I'd actually given up and taken to referring to him by his drag name, Chica Soirée.

FeyBoohoozer (#410)

Ian! A word!

missdelite (#625)

Denton's eyeing The Awl, considering whether it'll make a nice addition to his medieval tool collection.

"Dis-moi ce que tu achètes, je te dirai ce que tu es."

missdelite (#625)

"Tell me what you bought, I'll tell you what you are."? Pardonne-moi, mon francais est tres "rusty".

mcbeachy (#548)

i gave up gawker 2 years ago. haven't missed it. misterhippity's comments above strike me as spot on.

I've worked for people like Nick Denton before, and yes, it's a great learning experience, but usually the experience learned is on the order of "find a new line of work".

sunnyciegos (#551)

I'm curious to learn why Remy Stern "has desired the top job at Gawker since at least 2004." Is he a sadomasochist?

Tulletilsynet (#333)

Denton shmenton. Readers read writers, not websites. I'll still find Doree and Pareene just as easily no matter what buffoon is flogging their work. The very idea of possessing and trademarking a website is fallacious. As if a website comprised its "parts," as if it were a unitary, integral thing you could sell. As if it were stapled together and sent in the mail. So dumb.

It's funny, yes! You're right. It's the huge difference between the business view and the reader's view. YOU go to the Internet for people you like. But there's no accounting for that in a business model; the uniques are just uniques–nothing to do with what "you" read or why you read.

ae38 (#1,097)

I think that's largely true, but you're forgetting about people's habits and laziness when it comes to most things, even the internet. Do you know how long I kept reading Jezebel even after it degenerated into total ridiculous pre-post-meta-feminist trash? It was just a part of my morning routine. Same thing with Gawker. It became a part of my morning routine when I started my first job, and I kept coming back even as the website went through some very dramatic changes in leadership, style, etc., not because I was necessarily still completely on-board with their new stylings, but because it was my routine. It finally took their new (now old?) commenting system (plus my lack of employment annihilating most routines) to kind of shake me out of my stupor. (Though in full disclosure, when I tried to return, I found my commenting privileges had been banned – Thanks Foster Kamer!)

Anyway, my point is that very few people are faithful to a reader, but they are faithful to their habits and perhaps a genre. If most of my favorite voices (and many new and improved ones) from Gawker hadn't landed here, I don't know how hard I would have tried to track them down at various publications. e.g. As much as I love Cajun Boy's writing and have been a faithful reader of his personal blog for years, I only read his work on The Animal if its linked from his own blog, and I end up loving the things on The Animal whenever I do go there. So, yeah, basically I'm a dog…new tricks…etc.

Moff (#28)

@Choire & a38: The content is irrelevant; the medium is the message. Owners have historically been a lot more cognizant of that than producers.

A shout out to brand integrity though;The Awl may not come stapled in one piece, but it's cohesive and because I trust the fellas running it, I will absolutely give my attention to new writers they introduce me to.

bb (#295)

I'm guessing internet reading is not as untethered from the traditional brand/staple model as you say. Like we all love the awl, but these dudes aren't getting paid much (or at all?). So let's not make up a new business model based on unpaid writers whose blogs we like.

Tulletilsynet (#333)

It's not a matter of suggesting a different business model. I just suspect the medium is systematically business model-hostile.

That is, I would be deliriously glad if readers could be made loyal and business modelly and docile for the sake of the Awl (and not Gawker). Hypothetical yay for that idea! Or, I fear, contrafactualy yay!

But if anything, it's probably the less readerly, more cud-chewing flocks who are the easier ones to fence in and milk or shear or whatever. To get $$$ from under a territorial business model. Than actual readers are. (I am guessing?)

i think the importance of muscle memory when it comes to online-content consumption is way understated. (let's not even get into how long it took me to not go to [SITE NAME REDACTED] after we parted ways last fall. i still type it into my iphone browser on train rides sometimes.)

fek (#93)

That comment prolly has something to do with the reason I banned you. You're welcome! Also, it's Animal New York. At least get the name of the website correct if you're going to write it off.

heartbreakturnip (#1,190)

Dead and moldy Marshall Mcluhan can still kiss my ass and pay me for the privilege. Fucking tosser.

joeclark (#651)

I don't even know this guy, but every single thing of his I've read makes me loathe him.

If Snyder can get canned, why can't this guy?

When a boy executes you it means he likes you!?

lululemming (#409)

I like your writing very much, Foster, but the knee-jerk defenses of Gawker when anyone knocks it make you seem either exceptionally thin-skinned or woefully off-the-mark in terms of maintaining that site's tradition of irreverence. Anyways…

KarenUhOh (#19)

Other than the tedious loop of Nick shaving with a machete and writing with a chisel, there's not much to see here.

josh_speed (#97)

Most of what I liked about Gawker is now here, and no longer there. That is it.

brianvan (#149)


ae38 (#1,097)

Word. What I wanted to say above but failed to.

This was the strongest staff Gawker ever had. *Duh! look*

Tulletilsynet (#333)


Same here. I also laughed at 'this is the best writing staff blah blah blah' line also. Ha! No.

There is decent work being done there on an individual or piece by piece basis to be sure, but the whole is a fucking mess. It is impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff over there. The 'vision' seems to be about throwing anything at the wall to see what sticks. It's pathetic.

For me Mr. Sicha's second run had both the writing team and the vision of a must read website.

Kind of like what TheAwl is now.

You've said it better. I regret echoing the "staff" in the original quote, as Choire and Alex, et al. weren't staff, they were Gawker.

But now they're The Awl. And better still.

Yup. Plus most of my favorite COMMENTERS are here.

sigerson (#179)


Clip Arthur (#2,024)

Exactly. But must ask, how does David Cho's kitchen stand up against Nick Denton's? Because every time I hear about Mr. Denton I always hear someone saying something about the kitchen. We readers are paying nothing and demand info!

Pop Socket (#187)

Just when we had taught Snyder to run his copy through spellcheck before posting. All that hard work gone to waste.

La Cieca (#1,110)

I find adorable the irony of praising one writer as "cliche-free," then, in the same sentence, using the cliches "workhorse" and "gimlet-eyed."

joeclark (#651)

I will state that I am acquainted with the only person to have received a glowing letter of recommendation from Denton.

Ananke (#3,223)

I don't think you people are the kinds of readers Gawker management wants anymore. Their sites are much more mass market now. Sarcasm and wit written for those with college-level reading skills doesn't fit into that business model.

BoHan (#29)

A repeat, but I'll just say that I trust anything that Choire and Balk put on the page. It should be a model that works, but that's crazy, I know, trusting the editors.

adminslave (#3,548)

I've been commenting/lurking on gawker since 2006 and it hasn't been the same for at least a year. The content is all over the place. And all my favorite commenters are here! I had no idea.

souplines (#502)

Gawker is so over. They should rename the site NickDentonsEgo and be done with it

esquared (#888)

don't you get most of your contents from gawker, to put in your blog, without crediting them? do not piss on the well where you drink from.

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