NEW YORK, NEW YORK— The rise of Gawker has been well-documented. Founded by Nick Denton in 2003 as “the source for daily Manhattan media news and gossip,” the site’s urbane tone of bemusement in line with the old Spy, coupled with the Internet’s ability to feature near-instant commentary on events, turned the site into a quick, widely imitated success. But the current version of Gawker barely resembles the 2003 publication, as the entire site has shifted its identity away from New York and into the national landscape.
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“Gawker’s grown to sort of be a national site. We don’t focus obsessively on New York or Manhattan and we don’t cover media as obsessively as we once did,” says editor-in-chief Remy Stern. “We certainly still cover media to some degree, but it’s a site that’s broadened out a great deal.” The site has gradually morphed into a current affairs blog, with regular coverage of pop culture, politics, technology, trends, and anything else that catches its editors’ eyes. “It’s really a general interest site,” Stern explains. “There’s nothing we can’t cover or don’t cover.”
Due to these changes, Gawker’s traffic has increased exponentially—though in chasing this traffic the site has lost some of its uniqueness. Still, no one manages cynical authoritativeness quite like Gawker. “We cover things with a certain voice that’s distinctly Gawker, and that’s what sets us apart from the other coverage of the same stories that you might see,” Stern explains.
As the site’s coverage has expanded, its editors have been forced to cede more control to the site’s writers in order to keep pace. “It’s a lot of ground to cover and one of the things we have to do is figure [out] what to focus our attention on every day…. The ability to move really quickly and cover things as soon as they happen and be on top of the news requires us to not have as much structure in place as you might find at a traditional news outlet,” says Stern. The site’s growth has come not just from its expanded coverage, but also the editorial staff’s emphasis on producing and packaging the sorts of stories that will attract as many page views as possible.
Gawker has also started to spend more time on multimedia reporting and commentary. One of Stern’s chief concerns since taking over Gawker has been moving the site past the the types of articles that made it famous, pushing the staff to cover things with the same voice, while using newer tools. “We still have many of the same kinds of stories but we’ve spent more time packaging stories using better pictures, higher resolution pictures, using more video, better video,” says Stern. “It’s a much more visual treatment of the content. We find that people like multimedia; they don’t want to just read the story, they want to see the documents that go with that story. If they read about a lawsuit they can now actually see the pages of the lawsuit.” While one could say that the entire point of Gawker is to pick out the juicy bits from among the legalese, it’s nice that they give readers the option.
City: New York, N.Y.
Principal Staff: Nick Denton, founder; Remy Stern, editor-in-chief.
Affiliations: Gawker Network; Content sharing with Talking Points Memo.
CMS: In-house Gawker Network CMS, “GED”
CJR on Gawker:
08/24/11: From Commenter to Contributor - On some blogs, taking the comment section seriously can mean hiring people from it - Alysia Santo
11/08/10: “Gut Feeling” Guides Pay-For-Play at Gawker - Liz Cox Barrett
05/01/10: Look at Me! - A writer’s search for journalism in the age of branding - Maureen Tkacik
08/03.09: Gawker’s Link Etiquette (or Lack Thereof) - Original stories deserve credit, yes, but also traffic - Bill Grueskin
10/15/09: Gawker Media, Potential-for-Anarchy Edition - Megan Garber