Category Archives: Media

The Rise and Fall of Gawker Media

Full disclosure: I was a contributor at Gawker in 2009.

How has Gawker’s major redesign altered their traffic? It all depends who you ask and what measurement service you decide to use. They all seem to paint a slightly different picture and everyone you speak to will give you a different explanation for why it is so. Gawker had been using the measurement service, Sitemeter, that they proudly displayed prior to the redesign, and still exists on Gawker’s UK site in the old reverse chronological format they tossed away.

The new format launched on February 10th, and you can see the massive drop off on that very date. Gawker’s editor-in-chief Remy Stern claimed the Sitemeter was not working anymore. The new format of the site was created in such a way that the measurement could not be accurately detected by that type of tool. So let’s toss out the Sitemeter entirely since it seems incapable of giving us a true look at Gawker’s traffic.

Instead, we’ll look at Quantcast, which shows a steady decline in pageviews for Gawker since  the end of January. Additionally, unique visitors fell off a cliff shortly after February 7th and have struggled to reach their previous levels ever since.

The way the site is designed now, without getting too technical, does not make it easy to be crawled by search engines. This is a pretty serious oversight by Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker, who had been beta testing this design for quite some time. Gawker had to deal with a massive security breach just before the launch, where hackers had wide ranging access to user account data, internal chat logs and the source code for the current redesign.

Stern posted a screen shot of Gawker’s internal Google Analytics to counter what others were saying about Gawker’s drop in traffic, but the numbers he posted are prior to the redesign. Denton even publicly (he habitually “leaks” his company memos) acknowledged that the new design has caused traffic from Google to drop “significantly”.

Denton seems to be pretty sure of himself in thinking that the future of the web is not in blogs but in the magazine design he’s now embracing; a design more suited for an iPad or even a television. Most times when everyone has doubted Denton, like when he reorganized his network by selling off some sites and folding together others to prepare for a bad economy which he correctly predicted would hit the Internet ad marketplace hard, standing by what he believes has paid off.

His sites have grown more profitable and increased their audience since that time. Oddly enough, the editor during the period who followed Gabriel Snyder and helped grow Gawker from the New York City inside-baseball media rage of the creative underclass to the national tabloid it is today was essentially pushed out to make room for the current EIC, Remy Stern, and his site CityFile, which has yet to be fully integrated into the Gawker network. Chris Batty, head of sales at Gawker left the company after an unresolvable disagreement with Denton over the new direction the redesign was taking the network towards.

Denton said regarding the redesign: “We got ahead of ourselves — and now we’re rowing back.”

The question is, will it be too late for Gawker to row back after losing roughly 50% of their audience in the process, and more importantly, was it all worth it? Denton has proved everyone wrong before, with the odds stacked against him, and he’s going to try to do it once again.

The Economics of Internships

The haves and the have nots are delineated in multiple ways through our polite society here in America. That separation is apparent to a significant degree when it comes to the opportunities available to the folks we are counting on to pull us out of the ditch we’ve found ourselves in after the nuclear winter of sub-prime mortgages and the supposed near collapse of our financial system. They are, of course, our interns.

Intern-ships are seemingly thankless jobs, but they are often a rare golden ticket to a path to highly sought after positions. The issue is that most of these jobs are non-paying, making them un-affordable for those who don’t come from a privileged background. When one must toil through 12-hour days, with tasks ranging from the banal (fetching coffee) to somewhat skilled (fetching data,) it doesn’t leave time to take a second job to support their dream. This creates a very real societal structure that locks out those on the lower rungs of society from pulling themselves up. The American Dream requires more than a little help from friends and a well established and generous family.

Aside from the fact that this practice only allows children of upper middle to upper class families the opportunity to take these coveted jobs, it may even be illegal. In a New York Times article back in April of last year, it was noted that number of unpaid internships had seen a significant rise in recent years, leading the New York labor commissioner to launch an investigation into several firms.

Many of these companies are quite bold. Jezebel, the woman focused vertical of Nick Denton’s Gawker Media network, put out a bat signal for unpaid internships to help launch their upcoming “Book of Jezebel” publication. This set off some chatter on the Tumblr blogging platform where many weighed in with their mostly negative opinions of how Gawker was perpetuating the unfair practice. One user noted how it is exactly the type of behaviour Jezebel seemingly would be looked to be taking a stand against:

“Jezebel should be genuinely upset about this too, b/c anytime there are structural inequalities like this it is women and people of color who feel the effects most of all.”

Is there an answer to bridge these inequities? Businesses have little incentive to comply if the laws are unenforceable. It seems that it’s nearly impossible to enforce these laws because the very interns who take the jobs will not report the firms because they don’t want to make waves that could disrupt their chances with future employers. The system continues because the few who are able to benefit are complicit with the system.

Perhaps the authorities need to randomly send out undercover interns to apply for jobs suspected of these unfair hiring practices. The threat of random applicants who could be an agent in disguise could give employers pause. It is, after all, not only a lost opportunity for someone who needs it more than the well off, but it’s lost taxable income for the fed and the state. The incentive may not be there for the employer to comply but in a country saddled with both federal and state deficits, any drop in the bucket by way of tax revenue can help bridge the gap.

If there were such rules, we all would benefit by having a broader base of well trained young people across the social landscape. In a country that has never had a more striking separation of those at the very top from those struggling to make their way from the very bottom, addressing this inequity couldn’t be more timely.