Gawker Media has shed three of its 15 titles, including legendary political blog Wonkette. The D.C. rag will be run by its managing editor and represented to political advertisers by Henry Copeland’s Blogads network.
At the peak of the 2004 election season Blogads generated approximately $20,000 a month in advertising on Wonkette, but that number fell between campaign cycles and then plummeted when Gawker quit working with ad networks entirely.
“In the 2004 political cycle Blogads was turning a pretty good dime on Wonkette,” said Gawker sales chief Chris Batty. “At the time, we thought [$20,000 a month] was great. Today that doesn’t move the needle.”
The other two sites to be shown the door are Gawker’s tiniest in terms of traffic: music-focused Idolator and urban travel blog Gridskipper. While the company has reduced the number of its properties by 20 percent, the dismissed sites represent only about 3 percent of its monthly page views, according to a memo Gawker Chief Nick Denton sent to staff this morning.
The sites will all continue operations under different ownership. Wonkette has been spun off to Managing Editor Ken Layne; Idolator is being sold to music-focused social net Buzznet, which also recently acquired rival blog Stereogum; and Gridskipper has been ported to Curbed, an eight-blog urban lifestyles network run by ex-Gawker editor Lockhart Steele. Denton has a stake in Curbed.
In his memo, Denton emanated the chipper gloominess and belt-tightening efficiency that have become his trademarks.
“It would be naive to think that we can merely power through an advertising recession,” he wrote. “We need to concentrate our energies, and the time of Chris Batty’s sales group, on the sites with the greatest potential for audience and advertising.”
The departure of Wonkette shows how willing Denton is to part with titles when it makes business sense to do so. The site launched in the run up to the Bush/Kerry presidential race and quickly achieved heights of vulgarity previously unknown in political coverage. Its infamy has faded during the 2008 campaign cycle however, even as its traffic has grown. “Wonkette is bigger than it’s ever been, but in the context of the size of the Web today relative to four years ago, it’s ever harder to compete in the category,” said Batty.
With the spun-off sites, all three of which represent fairly untargeted audiences, Gawker may be retrenching somewhat around niche segments. While it has historically focused on male audiences through sites for gamers (Kotaku), car enthusiasts (Jalopnik) and its all-important tech blog Gizmodo, female-skewed sites do make the list. One of its newer properties is Jezebel, a gossip-oriented blog for women with a more ethical ethic than your average Gawker title (tagline: Celebrity, Sex, Fashion. Without Airbrushing.)
Batty said that trait can make it tough to sell. “Just like every one of our titles, we stake out aggressive positions. If we’re right, and we get a significant portion of demographic, then advertisers will give the thumbs up.”
While Batty agreed Idolator, Gridskipper, and Wonkette aren’t as defined in terms of audience, he said that wasn’t a factor in their defenestration.
“They’re less discrete in terms of a demographic. They’re not obviously male or female,” he said. “But they broadly fit into our influential cosmopolitan demographic we try to sell against.”
He added each site will have better access to relevant advertisers. “They’re just not our best opportunities.”
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