Josh Laurito offers a fascinating look at the internals of a top-flight blog. Gawker, bankrupted by the Hulk Hogan lawsuit verdict and having sold off all its blogs (except Gawker.com itself) to Univision, is to cease publication this week.
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Since it’s not totally clear to me what will happen to the site’s archives or how long I will have access to data about the site, today seems like a good time to jot down some of the numbers we have about our writers, our community, and posts.
Univision won the auction for Gawker Media with a $135m bid, reports Peter Kafka.
... the auction is a disappointing conclusion for Gawker Media owner Nick Denton, who founded the company in 2002. Last year, as rival media companies like Vice, BuzzFeed and Vox Media (which owns this site) were raising money at increasingly high valuations, Denton was arguing that his company was worth $250 million or more.
The price was depressed by the circumstances of the sale: a $140m award against it after publishing a Hulk Hogan sex tape and losing the subsequent lawsuit, which was secretly funded by vengeful billionaire Peter Thiel. Though experts generally expect Gawker to prevail on appeal, it was forced into bankruptcy by the penalty and the only other bidder was Ziff Davis, at $90m.
This weds Gawker to The Onion and Fusion in the Univision website stable; The Onion is very much its own thing, but Fusion's web presence is quite similar to Gawker itself and one wonders will it blend? Read the rest
Facebook claims it has developed a way to force ads to appear irrespective of whether visitors are using adblockers, and will soon begin doing so. The Wall Street Journal reports that the technique is "relatively easy" because Facebook doesn't use third-party ad tech—another way of saying that as Facebook serves both content and ads itself, it is at liberty to make them technically indistinguishable from one another.
“This isn’t motivated by inventory; it’s not an opportunity for Facebook from that perspective,” Mr. Bosworth said. “We’re doing it more for the principle of the thing. We want to help lead the discussion on this.”
It'd be understandable if they took an ads-or-GTFO attitude, or presented this as a fuck-you to adblocking companies, many of which are now sleazy middlemen who can be bought off (which Facebook has vowed not to do.) But Facebook insists that users damage the "Facebook experience" when they take matters into their own hands, so it's still, to them, a battle for control over what users can do on their own computers.
Depending on how they are counted, between a quarter and a third of users block ads. Desktop ads account for only a small portion of Facebook's total ad revenue, but command higher rates than mobile ads and are apparently regarded as a soft target for growth:
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Facebook stands to gain financially from showing ads to ad-blocking users. On the company’s second-quarter earnings call in July, Facebook executives said its “ad load”—the volume of ads its users typically see—was in a “good zone.” That means it doesn’t think it can push many more ads to users than they already see during the time they are spending on the social network.
Billionaire Pierre Omidyar "steps into the ring" in the long-running legal fight over privacy and journalistic freedom, fought lately between Hulk Hogan and Gawker Media. The intervention, on Gawker's side--Omidyar is himself a media man, now--came after it turned out billionaire Peter Thiel was secretly funding Hulk's suit.
Alternative subtitle: "No matter who wins, we news."
Cast it in the comments. I'm thinking Kenneth Branagh as Denton, Michael C. Hall as Thiel, Christopher Lambert as Omidyar, Hulk Hogan as Terry Bollea, and any random carnie as Hulk Hogan. Read the rest
The Daily Mail, a notable British tabloid, is suing Gawker after the latter posted "My Year Ripping Off the Web with the Daily Mail Online," an expose of the paper's sourcing habits.
In it he said: “Unlike at other publications for which I've worked, writers weren't tasked with finding their own stories or calling sources.
“We were simply given stories written by other publications and essentially told to rewrite them.
“And unlike at other publications where aggregation writers are encouraged to find a unique angle or to add some information missing from an original report, the way to make a story your own at the Mail is to pass off someone else's work as your own.”…
The Mail Online claims that its “reputation as an ethical, upstanding, and law-abiding company has been impugned”
We’re not surprised that the Daily Mail doesn’t like what James King had to say about his time working there, this baseless complaint doesn’t even attempt to refute the vast majority of the author’s detailed anecdotes about his experience as a Daily Mail writer
There seems little doubt how the Mail generates content: the "writethroughs," of day-old stories found elsewhere, are published for all to see. The expose seemed damning, and the Mail's response to it at the time was remarkably self-damning. But the devils are in the details, lawsuits are very expensive to fight, and Gawker is known to be getting tired of them, so here we are.
My favorite thing about The Daily Mail is its ludicrously incompetent photoshopping. Read the rest
"Such is the state of online video," reports Wired, profiling Jukin Media, a 100-employee "viral video" farm. Read the rest
Online "character quizzes," suddenly ultra-viral thanks to adroit Facebook-centric designs at sites like Zimbio, are all the rage. Are they fueled by narcissism? No, says Devon Maloney: it's fear
: "We crave the peace of mind that comes from believing the human condition is quantifiable
." Which is to say, of course, our own conditions. It's the Myers-Briggs sorting hat for a new generation, telling you what you just told it. Read the rest
Matthew Ingram talks to Reddit GM Erik Martin about the site's plans to build out crowdsourced reporting features—and how it will guard them against misuse and chaos.
Martin admitted the moderator system is flawed in some ways, or at least could be improved — by making it easier for users to switch from one sub-Reddit to another, for example — but he also argued that the democratic (some would anarchic) approach the site takes to virtually everything has positive impacts. Someone once asked who created a specific sub-Reddit, and Martin said he had to admit “I have no idea, someone just came along and did it… the fact that it even works at all, when you think about it, is just crazy. It shouldn’t work, but it does.”
Reddit's crowdsourced reporting threads are often the best places to find real-time aggregation of breaking news. But the screw-ups can't be dismissed glibly. If Reddit took a little more responsibility for the major subreddits (the ones that it promotes to the general public as central sections of the site, such as r/news) and applied a more policy-driven approach to how they're run, it would be much easier to communicate the implicit distinctions here between moderation and anarchy (i.e., journalism and histrionics). Read the rest
With "Obama's pot dealer beaten to death for farting in gay lover's face
", I think The Daily Mail
may reasonably claim to have created the second-best newspaper headline in human history. Read the rest
Last week, Caleb Hannan wrote an article about a clever new golf club and its inventor, Dr. Essay Vanderbilt. Starting out as a profile, it briefly covers the scientific claims behind the design and Dr. V's eccentricities and pretensions. We learn, ultimately, that Dr. V defrauded investors, though none of those quoted seem terribly bothered about it. We also learn that she was a trans person. Finally, at the end, we learn she killed herself, shortly after Hannan notified her of her imminent outing in the press.
Initially achieving some praise, Hannan's story was soon criticized. Critics noticed how anxiously and quietly V's suicide was footnoted away, and how Hannan weaved discussion of her trans status into discussion of her fraudulent business activity. Read the rest
Choire Sicha reports on Mediaite
managing editor Jon Nicosia, who turns out to be a con artist, Zachary Hildreth, with form.
. The fallout
. On the internet, no-one know you're a dog. But if they never see you because of "black ops", well, you'd think some suspicion would kick in... [The Awl, Mediaite, Gawker] Read the rest
Tom Scocca writes that ostentatious positivity, pitched as a noble response to the web's omnipresent snark, typically amounts only to the worse thing that snark itself cures: smarm.
What is smarm, exactly? Smarm is a kind of performance—an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance. Smarm is concerned with appropriateness and with tone. Smarm disapproves. Smarm would rather talk about anything other than smarm. Why, smarm asks, can't everyone just be nicer?
The most significant explicator of the niceness rule—the loudest Thumper of all, the true prophetic voice of anti-negativity—is neither the cartoon rabbit nor the publicists' group nor Julavits, nor even David Denby. It is The Believer's founder and impresario, Dave Eggers.
Smarm is another word for Serious Culture—"In smarm is power"—and you know what to do with that. Read the rest
A decade ago, the New York Times prepared the first, breaking story about warrantless domestic surveillance in America. But, at the Bush administration's urging, it delayed publication until after the next election. NYT public editor Margaret Sullivan reviews the ongoing sense of betrayal felt by its readers, and how it made the newspaper an unappealing port of call for whistleblowing sources such as Edward Snowden. Read the rest
Alex Naidus advises you on how to avoid the easy pitfalls of perceived arrogance, smugness and sanctimony
. I'm a frequent dropper of "I read this really interesting article…", sad to say! Read the rest