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 Gawker.tv operation, Gabriel doubled Gawker’s audience
during his tenure (http://bit.ly/c6BXk8.) 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.
Nick

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
canned.

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.

Best,
Gabriel