After nearly fourteen years of operation, Gawker.com will be shutting down next week. The decision to close Gawker comes days after Univision successfully bid $135 million for Gawker Media’s six other websites, and three months after the Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel revealed his clandestine legal campaign against the company.
Yesterday, I met Gabriel Snyder, the former W Magazine writer who's starting as Gawker's new managing editor next week. We're coworkers, since Gawker Media publishes both Gawker and Valleywag. He seems nice enough. But one thing worries me: He has a Friendster profile, which was quite au courant in 2003. The profile, like the site itself, is seriously out of date, listing Snyder as single. He's engaged. Sorry, ladies.
Gary the Puppet — who in the clip embedded below tours the offices of Tumblr, Next New Networks, Gawker, CollegeHumor, and Wallstrip — might be the perfect metaphor for the New York tech scene. It makes a big show of itself, but it's kind of flimsy and despite how it may look, somebody much larger and more powerful is actually running things. For New York tech, the puppeteer's hand is old media companies. IAC and CBS own College Humor and Wallstrip, respectively. Tumblr has its roots in Hanna-Barbera cartoons. So does Next New Networks, which just agreed to distribute its videos over Hulu, a News Corp. and NBC joint venture. And what's Gawker but a tape worm in Old Media's belly? Still, New York tech has this over the Valley: perhaps because of those old media connections, it knows how to present itself with a hokey smirk instead of new media's typical sassback.
"Hey Em, I hear that we may see you during the Thanksgiving holiday. Great," my maternal grandfather wrote to me in an email last night. "Tell me later about the stable of bloggers (?) who do comments on your varying stories. They seem to repeat themselves. Do you liven up the comments by using in house people ? Is this a serous attraction for your readers? Does it build the number of hits to the site? It appears that the commentators view avidly each others comments. A sort of incestuous aura. Take care, stay employed, and have a good retirement plan." My grandfather is so correct (except maybe about the part about staying employed): The Gawker comments do have a sort of incestuous aura. And it's about to get even incestuous-er!.
"The journalistic culture in which columnists were the only ones allowed to have a personality, and everyone else's bylines were practically interchangeable, is practically gone," wrote Doree Shafrir in the New York Observer yesterday about how "personal branding" has infected even that holiest of holies, the New York Times. She uses the success of former 'TV Newser' turned Times blogger Brian Stelter as an example of the reversal of protocol that's recently taken place—reporters must now market themselves as specialists from the jump, instead of spending time working different beats until finding a comfortable "sincecure" later in life, in order to prevent themselves from being seen as interchangeable and therefore, redundant. The piece is exactly the kind of thinky, finger-on-pulse thing we've come to expect from Doree Shafrir, who also really likes 'The Hills'!