Gawker’s rebound

June 13, 2011

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It’s been more than six months since sales chief Chris Batty left Gawker Media as Nick Denton decided he was going to tear up the old way of doing thing and try something new. Since then, Denton has relaunched his sites to general dismay, and entered into a bet with Rex Sorgatz, which he will lose if Gawker Media fails to generate 510 million pageviews in September. My take, at the time, was noncommittal but ultimately on Denton’s side; since then, I became more bearish, and then more bullish again. Now I think that Rex ought to be very worried:


This is a chart of Gawker Media’s rolling monthly pageviews, and it shows a spectacular jump of well over 100 million impressions since the lows in March. Gawker Media’s traffic is now higher than at any point except the iPhone 4 coup; it will almost certainly start hitting new all-time highs very soon. It’s thisclose to reaching that goal already, in the US.

Altogether, an impressive recovery from a very difficult transition — more impressive, I think, than most observers dreamed possible. As I said in February, it’s always dangerous to bet against Denton.

Financially, Denton claims that the past six months — which, remember, have seen Gawker Media without a permanent sales chief — have been extremely successful, with ad sales up 35% over the same period last year. And maybe as a result of these strong sales and impressive traffic gains, Denton has managed to lure Andrew Gorenstein from Condé Nast to replace Batty.

Denton’s still tweaking the redesign, too: he says that “the next iteration of the design should cement the recovery.” Certainly the old-fashioned blog view format is looking pretty good these days, although it remains to be seen how much of it Denton will borrow for the main website.

It’s even conceivable that Gawker Media might overtake HuffPo at some point, depending on the degree to which AOL decides to train its traffic firehose on its flagship content site. Quantcast puts HuffPo’s global pageviews at 531 million a month, just about 10% ahead of Gawker Media; they’re certainly not growing as fast and in fact have declined noticeably over the past month: they were up at 589 million at the end of May. (Incidentally, Denton’s not the only person hiring from Condé: Arianna can do the same.)

So color me bullish on Gawker Media for the time being: something has clearly clicked and is going right. Anecdotally, I’ve recently found myself visiting Gawker much more than a year or even six months ago; I no longer think that they’re giving up on the joyfully literate. Denton, it seems, might just have done it again.

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