RIP Gawker.com, 2002–2016
A eulogy for the little blog that did.
Gawker.com was given its death notice today. The notorious and prolific blog will shutter next week after almost 14 years of operation.
For those close to the goings-on at Gawker Media, this is anything but a shock. Univision successfully bought the blog network for $135 million this week following the high-profile bankruptcy of the media company and its founder/owner Nick Denton.
The company was bankrupted by a lawsuit that awarded Hulk Hogan $140 million in damages after the website published a sex tape of the celebrity wrestler in 2012. That lawsuit, as well as a slew of others, were funded by tech billionaire and Facebook boardmember Peter Thiel.
Without dedicating too much space to a man who can buy his own results, Thiel defended his actions in The New York Times on Monday, writing, essentially, that he killed Gawker to protect journalism from itself.
While it goes without saying that the flagrant destruction of independent press isn’t good for journalism, Gawker.com was far more than its most easily criticized posts. Over its short life, Gawker extensively covered social justice issues along with the changing media landscape and international politics.
Gawker’s writers were also really funny. I regularly think about this post from January 2015 lauding the food at the Tenement Museum.
I also think about sitting in my high school journalism classroom, being told that newspapers were dead, but reading that outlets like Gawker still paid people to write. Gawker showed the media industry that a digital native could put food on the table for both publishers and writers.
Last summer, Gawker Media became one of the first digital journalism organizations to unionize when they joined the Writers Guild of America, East. Denton publically supported his employees. In the months that followed, the Writers Guild unionized The Huffington Post, Salon, ThinkProgress, and Vice.
Gawker's union contract guaranteed a minimum annual salary of $50,000, in an industry where digital journalists are often asked to write for free.
The contract also guaranteed employees severance pay at the rate of two weeks for each year of service, starting after six months — a stark contrast to companies like IBT Media which don’t offer severance to anyone who’s worked with them even a day less than a full year.
And besides all of that, Gawker.com was profitable. Not because of the negligible number of page views garnered from an abominable gossip post. But because they leaned into new innovations, fostered an extremely devoted and passionate community, and gave advertisers access to millions of unique views (56 million in July).
Gawker.com, rest in power.