In The Press: More About Nick Denton Than You Perhaps Wanted To Know


Courtesy of The Observer and his old friend Jay Rayner, who grew up with the Gawker Media owner:

  • “Nick said he’d be friends with me because I knew lots of people,” says former classmate and colleague Dave Galbraith.

  • “He was famous for not committing to a Friday- or Saturday-night plan unless he could be certain that he had alighted upon the best option.”
  • “Today he is happily cohabiting with Doug, an artist.”
  • What prompted Denton to leave his Financial Times post in San Francisco in the late 90s? “The deadlines were horrible and the FT had no prestige there.” Horrible deadlines are such a bitch man, I hear you.
  • Nick suggests they start thinking about selling a couple of their sites and perhaps launching a new one,” Rayner reports, describing a meeting he was allowed to sit in on at Denton’s loft. (Excellent investor-fishing maneuver there, by the way, Nick. Or um, diversionary tactic. Whatevs.)
  • “I want to institutionalise and automate chequebook journalism,” Denton tells Rayner, saying he’ll “split page-view bonuses with them if the story runs.” Let the commenter-blogger feud begin!

Related: This Guardian piece about Gawker’s payment system (which merits 1,000 words anyplace why exactly?) made it sound like I fully endorse it. “Are bonuses the best way to motivate writers?” the reporter asked me. My long-winded response is after the jump, and if you don’t give a rat’s ass about any of this, then I like you very much and think we should get a beverage sometime.

“Are bonuses the best way to motivate writers?”

Me: “No, but they’re one way, and they should certainly be part of the equation on the web. That said, things get swampy fast when a traffic-based bonus is a writer’s sole motivator.

Print media is the last bastion of the star system, where change-and-effect (and prizes!) are the measuring stick, so it’s not surprising that Gawker’s new method of compensation is gettingthe most flak from that neck of the woods.

Are standards declining at Gawker because of the payment system? I think so, yes. Have they declined further under Nick Denton’s editorship? I think so, yes. Are fewer readers going there for unique content? I believe so, yes. But you can’t complain about all that out of one side of your mouth and then deride what the site has done in its five years out of the other. If you’ve noticed declining editorial standards, then you’ve been reading Gawker for a long time, and there’s a good reason for that. Gawker has certainly earned a reputation for being more than “just a blog.” Bob Christgau got all hot under the collar about that once. “Gawker is not a blog. It’s an online publication. It’s different. Blogs are one-person operations, in my opinion,” he said.

Well yes and no. The mistake is in assuming that Gawker is anything even resembling a print publication—it’s not, and wasn’t ever meant to be, despite mostly taking its work just as seriously. What you see on Gawker is a (groan) new form of journalism, part blog, part tabloid, part broadsheet, part interactive. The method it uses to pay its writers should reflect all those variables.

Essentially, I think, people misunderstand Denton’s aim, his writers included (not their fault, he likes to change his mind.) He’s creating a content delivery system based on what readers want to see, for which he’s hiring writers, whose job it is to deliver content. Many of the journalists Denton is interested in bringing to Gawker, however, come from the print stables, and they don’t—and won’t—respond well to being treated like commodities. They’re just not used to it.”


2 Responses to In The Press: More About Nick Denton Than You Perhaps Wanted To Know

  1. Karen UhOh says:

    Keep at the message, Maggie. This is a worthwhile story that needs telling and wider coverage. He really is trying to transform the media, and we’re pulling it along for him.

    At some point we, who read and/or write for it, have to try to steer it. And I could give two shits whether it works or not.

  2. WandaMayJune says:

    Maggie – Love that you are posting on your site! I also read Choire’s, Doree’s, et al and have enjoyed all your work at Gawker and especially since.

    But one thing I can’t understand is how you guys seem to think that there are off limit subjects re: Gawker. E.g. that people shoudn’t be interested in the pay system there.

    Gawker’s bread and butter, it’s raison d’etre, is GOSSIP. (You’re work there was always an anomamly – you were doing something more like expose’s or investigative journalism. ) Anyone who reads Gawker is fundamentally interested in things that are not really their business, that cross some boundary of appropriateness.

    Isn’t it obvious that people will have a keen interest in how the money changes hands there? Let alone the other more hurtful info that’s been tossed about what happens behind the scenes there.

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