The rise and fall of Gawker media

By Anthony De Rosa
March 3, 2011

Screen shot 2011-03-03 at 11.51.24 AM

Full disclosure: I was a contributor at Gawker in 2009.

How has Gawker’s major redesign altered their traffic? It all depends who you ask and what measurement service you decide to use. They all seem to paint a slightly different picture and everyone you speak to will give you a different explanation for why it is so. Gawker had been using the measurement service, Sitemeter, that they proudly displayed prior to the redesign, and still exists on Gawker’s UK site in the old reverse chronological format they tossed away.

The new format launched on February 10th, and you can see the massive drop off on that very date. Gawker’s editor-in-chief Remy Stern claimed the Sitemeter was not working anymore. The new format of the site was created in such a way that the measurement could not be accurately detected by that type of tool. So let’s toss out the Sitemeter entirely since it seems incapable of giving us a true look at Gawker’s traffic.

Instead, we’ll look at Quantcast, which shows a steady decline in pageviews for Gawker since  the end of January. Additionally, unique visitors fell off a cliff shortly after February 7th and have struggled to reach their previous levels ever since.

The way the site is designed now, without getting too technical, does not make it easy to be crawled by search engines. This is a pretty serious oversight by Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker, who had been beta testing this design for quite some time. Gawker had to deal with a massive security breach just before the launch, where hackers had wide ranging access to user account data, internal chat logs and the source code for the current redesign.

Stern posted a screen shot of Gawker’s internal Google Analytics to counter what others were saying about Gawker’s drop in traffic, but the numbers he posted are prior to the redesign. Denton even publicly (he habitually “leaks” his company memos) acknowledged that the new design has caused traffic from Google to drop “significantly”.

Denton seems to be pretty sure of himself in thinking that the future of the web is not in blogs but in the magazine design he’s now embracing; a design more suited for an iPad or even a television. Most times when everyone has doubted Denton, like when he reorganized his network by selling off some sites and folding together others to prepare for a bad economy which he correctly predicted would hit the Internet ad marketplace hard, standing by what he believes has paid off.

His sites have grown more profitable and increased their audience since that time. Oddly enough, the editor during the period who followed Gabriel Snyder and helped grow Gawker from the New York City inside-baseball media rage of the creative underclass to the national tabloid it is today was essentially pushed out to make room for the current EIC, Remy Stern, and his site CityFile, which has yet to be fully integrated into the Gawker network. Chris Batty, head of sales at Gawker left the company after an unresolvable disagreement with Denton over the new direction the redesign was taking the network towards.

Denton said regarding the redesign: “We got ahead of ourselves — and now we’re rowing back.”

The question is, will it be too late for Gawker to row back after losing roughly 50% of their audience in the process, and more importantly, was it all worth it? Denton has proved everyone wrong before, with the odds stacked against him, and he’s going to try to do it once again.

Image: Screenshot of Gawker’s redesign of gawker.com.

3 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

What’s left to say about the redesign that hasn’t been said? The site is still super-broken. It is splayed with moving gigantic ads. Who watches commercials anymore? Nobody. Because we don’t have to.
The bottom line is that Gawker is no fun anymore and Denton is a prick. Back when Gawker was really fun (and it was really, really fun!) even the fact that Denton was a prick seemed fun.

Posted by princesslala | Report as abusive

“Denton seems to be pretty sure of himself in thinking that the future of the web is not in blogs but in the magazine design he’s now embracing; a design more suited for an iPad or even a television.”

Yet strangely enough the new site doesn’t work on mobile devices. It auto redirects you to the mobile site on an iPad. So I guess it wasn’t really thought out all that well.

Posted by ADougherty | Report as abusive

NuGawker launched on 2/7.

At this point in time, it’s pretty obvious that the decision to roll out NuGawker was an impulsive, and nearly groundless, bit of hopefulness to leverage the new design intro on top of the Chris Lee, Craigslist Congressman story.

The story fizzled in record time, and six weeks later NuGawker still doesn’t match the features and agility of the Classic design. Anyone can go to Quantcast and see that traffic is significantly down, yet paradoxically page views per person are way up.

Denton has publicly poo-pooed the idea of site community, yet Quantcast also says that it is regular visitors, i.e. self-identified community members, who are responsible for the majority of traffic. Businesses that treat their customers with such contempt seldom last.

Posted by Snertly | Report as abusive

[...] and its regular readers had a very negative reaction to the change. According to a post in a Reuters blog, traffic and page views for the blog have decreased dramatically since the redesign [...]