Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Inside Gawker Media's First Company-Wide Meeting

....Last night, Gawker Media held its first real company-wide meeting at the Crosby Hotel screening room, down in the hotel's swank basement. Honcho Nick Denton gave a speech from the stage—just like a real grown-up company, and also totally not.

"His pep talk amounted to showing a chart of upward linear growth and telling us it wasn't good enough," said one employee. "But what do you expect from Nick—is he going to go around and rub everybody's shoulders?"

No. He is not. Denton should feel good that he came off as a real hardass. Everyone knows where they stand now: grow (more!) or get out. And another principle he issued was that Gawker Media is to be considered a tech company—but it should also be considered a tech company with editorial products… that should soon just happen to get more traffic than the New York Times website or the Huffington Post. Gawker Media, of course, is essentially supposed to be the next Facebook. Along the way to that goal, there'll be some big news announced by the company. (But not yet.)

So one highlight of the meeting was a top site editor taking issue with the conception of the company as a tech company. (Tech companies sell for a greater revenue multiplier than "editorial" companies do, although Denton also announced the company was absolutely not for sale.) Gawker Media's tech build-up includes what is said to be a very intense commenter system. (What was your top takeaway from the evening? I asked one writer. "Soon writers will be obsolete," the writer told me. "Reddit?" said another. To be fair, that's a common refrain over the years at Gawker, but it is an ideal outcome for a tech company. Gawker Media loves talent, but they also know there's always more talent.) In any event, Denton did not relent to the editor's insistence that the company was an editorial property.

Nor did anyone explain what this new commenter system is like. It runs apparently on magic, and will increase pageviews magically. With Gawker Media's history of smooth product rollouts, we're sure it'll work splendidly right out of the gate! Speaking of! Nick was asked if he would do the infamous redesign differently if he could do it over again. "No," he said—saying that, what's the point in having an independent company if you can't do things that are radical and make screw-ups? (While the company's competitors are, he said, hide-bound and risk-averse. That is true.)

Attendees described the meeting as alternately hilarious, exciting, boring and frightening. Looming over it all is the matter of pageviews, as there always is. Money is not just being spent on tech development, but on beefing up website staff—something of a hiring spree is at hand, because each site is expected to grow quite incredibly over the next year.

Andrew Gorenstein, the new head of ad sales, recently taken from Condé Nast, came off impressively, even from editorial, who is always expected to hate the ad guys. (That is a new and weird thing.)

There was a grab-bag of anonymous questions from the staff, which were presented all at once, and were slightly distorted in the reading. (One question, which went in as essentially "Will there be a future system for annual raises?" was asked as "When will I get a raise?" To which Denton responded, "You'll get a raise when you're promoted.") This is a strangeness of the company, even as it has maternity leave, good pay and retirement plans: there is, with some exceptions, not so much promotion from within. People in senior editorial positions who have held lower positions generally achieved their new promotions by leaving the company and then returning. The other way to get promoted is to, essentially, hire a department under you—a sort of Amway situation.

There was, however, a highly enjoyable historical montage of photographs from throughout the enterprise's already-storied history. Now everyone just has to go out and get more traffic. (Because it's not like they weren't already trying to do that.) But good news: there are chefs cooking sushi in the office today. Stuff your pockets with raw fish on your way home.

I have an insane number of both conflicting and mutual interests with Gawker Media. None of the above is based on information provided by the company.

53 Comments / Post A Comment

LolCait (#460)

Choire, it's weird that you didn't mention the bloodletting part. We're all going to miss Kidder.

@LolCait Kidder died for our sins

IBentMyWookie (#133)

So how many times did the Deadspin guys yell out "Fag!" during Denton's presentation?

Matt Langer (#2,467)

@IBentMyWookie DO NOT LIKE.

@IBentMyWookie I think they just put it in the comments.

iantenna (#5,160)

@Clarence Rosario that's exactly how i got my star!

@IBentMyWookie 'Fag' has been banished from the Gawker network.

Matt (#26)

@Crabby Golightly@twitter Interesting.

No, I'm pretty sure — having worked for "tech companies" for decades — that tech companies don't shove a redesign and esoteric features down people's throats and then defend it relentlessly under the rubric of "we're a tech company".

Apple, perhaps, being the notable exception.

narnio (#38)

@Clarence Rosario huh?

Matt (#26)

@narnio lol

@Clarence Rosario that redesign made me start reading the awl/hairpin, so yeah.

oldtaku (#9,009)

Gawker is a gossip and professional trolling company. I guess they're tech in the sense that you need to be on a computer to see it. They're certainly not a company with any web authoring expertise.

iantenna (#5,160)

gawker is a tech company. they're leading the way in the growth that is inversely proportional to quality field.

Mark Chu Cheong (#6,137)

wow, that made me feel good about my company "all hands". Maybe, I'm just a wuss.

zidaane (#373)

But what did the Hungarians think of the meeting?

SidAndFinancy (#4,328)

@zidaane Their thoughts are still in beta.

hockeymom (#143)

Who does Denton consider a "competitor"?
Is @Awl a competitor?
The Daily Beast?

Or is it The New York Times?

HiredGoons (#603)

@hockeymom: God, perhaps.

Annie K. (#3,563)

@hockeymom I'd really like to know the real answer to that question. Does anyone know?

Gabe (#1,771)

"Bring back The Unethicist!"

Matt (#26)


@Gabe I'm okay with this.

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@DorothyMantooth ("I have no problem with this")

@IBentMyWookie Yes, that.

@Gabe: Poor Randy Cohen, his mojo disappeared with the unethicist. True story.

I can never read news about Denton's "innovations" in the field without thinking thinking of Balk's Like rain on your wedding day, except instead of rain it's knives" post. Then I remember that Denton also introduced me to Choire, Balk and other great folks … so.

Pop Socket (#187)

@brilliantmistake GawkerMedia is a great place to have been from.

Pop Socket (#187)

As Gawker writers get testier from lack of raises, commenter executions will increase.

lawyergay (#220)

I totally get how Gawker is a tech company. I face this kind of misunderstanding all the time and am constantly explaining to people how my freelance financial journalism career is a distillery.

scroll_lock (#4,122)


Matt (#26)

Stop trying to make that show happen.

scroll_lock (#4,122)

@Matt – *stands on chair* WHO?

DennyCrane (#1,803)

Gawker Media's constant haggling over what it is or isn't reminds me of World Wrestling Entertainment trying to get everyone to call it a "sports entertainment" company.

NinetyNine (#98)

So it's okay to make fun of "They like blank comma generally" again?

@NinetyNine "The way we Tech Company now."

@NinetyNine "They like pretending they are a tech company, generally."

As an admin at Crasstalk, I can only say I welcome more Gawker redesigns. They seem to be working out for us, if not for Gawker's readers.

BadUncle (#153)

The last three media companies for whom I worked all declared at some point they were "media companies." Two went out of business because their missions and competencies became confusing and unworkable. The third IPOd successfully, after waiting a decade. I can't imagine changing a company's focus without a sale (public or private) in mind.

BadUncle (#153)

@BadUncle correction: I meant "declared themselves tech companies." Jesus – I have to stop posting in a hurry and read what I write.

jolie (#16)

When he changes the entity name to Gawker Tech then maybe I'll believe him. Maybe.

@jolie "He fixes the cable?"

IBentMyWookie (#133)

@Clarence Rosario "They're an alternative high school focused on teaching trade skills?"*

*Too Canadian?

JoshUng (#11,371)

"First, great job Gawker on that Christine O'Donnell article, and Gizmodo on the OkCupid/Magic article. These no-integrity articles may hurt our credibility, but they rake in the page-views. Kotaku, you write an article about a Mario/Luigi/Peach love triange, and i09, you.., I don't know, what an article saying Deep Space Nine is better than Voyager or something."

I think the meeting went something like that.

Zombie Cucumber (#9,378)

You know Nick had someone pose that bike in the background before shooting that "See? Here we are doing tech stuff!" photo.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

@Zombie Cucumber Great name/pic, btw.

what's gawker?

Sommar (#64,910)

I'd like to see that photo slideshow. That picture seems to include @megnut.

anildash (#487)

Now celebrating one full decade of THAT FUCKING PICTURE being the official illustration of Gawker.

Aatom (#74)

"Soon" writers will be obsolete.

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