Nick Denton Finds a New Nemesis

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Nick Denton understands better than anyone the traffic value of a little nasty. So it’s good news for Gawker Media’s site stats, as well as for the tech industry’s gossip mongers, that he’s returned to the keyboard – this time to helm Silcon Valley gossip rag ValleyWag.

His first assault is on John Battelle’s FM Publishing. Denton says Fark.com, pioneering news and humor aggregator, has bailed on the branded network in favor of a sweeter deal with Maxim. We’re also told Digg is about to jump ship, which if true would deal a credibility blow to Battelle, in whose cap Digg is the second biggest feather (the first being flagship property BoingBoing).

Battelle responds to the charge here and lets his irritation show. It’s certainly a tad gauche for Denton to kick off with this item, since Battelle’s high-touch ad network is Denton’s most direct competitor. But it’s also in character, since Gawker’s style has always derived from tabloids — and who slings competitive mud better than The Post and Daily News? Their rivalry is crude and unprofessional, but they get away with it because it’s fun. The Denton v. Calacanis years were always a good time for reporters. Before AOL acquired Weblogs Inc., the two blasted each other on a weekly basis. Calacanis would assert Denton’s network is 90 percent porn, and Denton would say Calacanis’s sites are, and I quote, “as memorable as Burger King franchises.” (There’s similar promise in the current rivalry between Ze Frank and RocketBoom’s Drew Baron, but that’s another story for another time.)

In the short term, Denton’s likely to generate more heat from advertisers by moving into the editor’s seat. He used to tell me ValleyWag and Fleshbot had always worked against his business, and he worries that big advertisers shy of his crass properties will suddenly yank their spend out of brand adjacency concerns or anger at something published on Gawker. As editor AND publisher, invoking the church/state clause won’t be as easy for Denton as it once was.

update: Exhibit B
update 2: Exhibit C

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