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Gawker Blog Network: A nice little earner

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Nick Denton, the expat Brit and creator of the Gawker Media blog network, is interviewed today in the New York Times.

Already lots of blog posts about the interview, many focusing on Denton’s views about the development of blogging.

Sample:

[...] As for the blog revolution, Mr. Denton put it this way: “Give me a break. The hype comes from unemployed or partially employed marketing professionals and people who never made it as journalists wanting to believe,” he said. “They want to believe there’s going to be this new revolution and their lives are going to be changed.”

What I found more interesting, though, was this insight into the Gawker organization and how the bloggers are incentivized and paid:

[Lockhart Steele, managing editor], who joined the company in February, is the den mother for Gawker’s far-flung collection of bloggers and is in near constant communication with them throughout the day via Instant Messenger. About half of the editors live in New York. The rest are distributed around the country. In California, Mark Lisanti edits Defamer, the Los Angeles counterpart to Gawker, and in Colorado, Brian D. Crecente edits one of the newer sites, Kotaku, dedicated to video games. In New Orleans, John d’Addario edits Fleshbot, while Ana Marie Cox covers political gossip from Washington on Wonkette.

Each editor is under contract to post 12 times a day for a flat fee, Mr. Steele said. (Gawker has two editors and now posts 24 times a day.) It is best to have eight posts up before noon, if possible, to keep readers coming back, he said.

The editors scan the Web for the best tidbits. Readers, and apparently even published authors, send in tips. When a Gawker site highlights articles from, say, The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, it is likely, both Mr. Steele and Mr. Denton said, that the article’s author sent an e-mail message to Gawker pointing out its existence. (This reporter’s naivet about this process was met with gentle laughter.)

Site traffic is a particular obsession. Gawker draws just over a million unique visitors a month; Fleshbot, the most popular site, lures nearly twice that number, and Gizmodo, a site dedicated to gadgets, roughly 1.5 million. All editors can earn bonuses if they manage to generate spikes in traffic.

[...] Bloggers are paid a set rate of $2,500 a month.

It’s a good article, a lengthy one, and worth reading for commentary on advertising models and for other views, eg, by Stowe Boyd of the Corante blog network.

And what about Gawker’s closest competition, the Weblogs Inc network run by Jason Calacanis? The NY Times piece doesn’t focus much on that competitor (the article is about Denton and Gawker, after all), but there’s an interesting and readable article by Mark Glaser in the USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review last month.

Relevant snippet:

[...] Weblogs Inc. has ditched its original idea of splitting ad revenues 50/50 with bloggers. The company’s chairman and mouthpiece Jason McCabe Calacanis admits he was wrong about the concept, and that only 1 in 20 writers went for the deal. Now he’s paying a flat fee for bloggers ranging from $100 to $3,000 per month, and is signing up two to five people per blog because of the focus on part-time help.

“We’ve separated the concept of pay and traffic as I think it can be very dangerous to link the two,” Calacanis told me via e-mail. “The biggest problem with traditional media is that they are always chasing ratings, which is an extension of their 10Q [earnings report]. People are coming to blogs because they are NOT playing the ratings game! What difference does it make if a blog gets 10% or 20% traffic [spikes] if it alienates the core audience by playing the ratings game?”

[...] “I’d rather our bloggers focus on creating unfiltered, honest content,” Calacanis said. “It’s my job to make the money, it’s their job to make great content. Also, we don’t need to make a profit on every blog. … Chasing ‘nip slips’ is good for ratings, sure, but I wouldn’t build a brand around them. For a gossip or porn magazine, going for ratings isn’t such a major ethical issue, but it is a slippery slope like many things.”

The final word must go to Nick Denton, from the NYT article:

“There are too many people looking at blogs as being some magic bullet for every company’s marketing problem, and they’re not,” he added. “It’s Internet media. It’s just the latest iteration of Internet media.”

More Links:

  • Nick Denton
  • Gawker
  • New York Times interview
  • Reader comments…

    Neville Hobson is the author of the popular NevilleHobson.com blog which focuses on business communication and technology.

    Neville is currentlly the VP of New Marketing at Crayon. Visit Neville Hobson’s blog: NevilleHobson.com.

    Gawker Blog Network: A nice little earner
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