Results tagged “nickdenton”

We Have To Make The Web We Want

March 14, 2012

On Sunday, I interviewed Nick Denton at SXSW about Gawker Media, commenting culture on the web, and a good bit of the history of professional blogging.

In advance of the conversation, I began a conversation with Elizabeth Spiers, Choire Sicha, Lockhart Steele, Jake Dobkin and Gina Trapani asking whether comments on the web have "failed", as the SXSW session's title proclaimed. Their responses, as expected, were both insightful and hilarious. Gawker naturally picked up the conversation and posed the same question to its commenters. I quite enjoyed the results!

Then to the main event. We had a terrific turnout within the room, and responses to the interview started almost immediately. Within the room, Andrew Federman was illustrating our conversation for Ogilvy's visual notes series:

Mat Honan also followed up almost immediately on Gizmodo, with a series of curated tweets that managed to capture a lot of the highlights of the conversation.

Tom Lee also started documenting the interview while it was still going on. And Owen Thomas summed up much of the spirit of the conversation while also watching us from the first row. Adweek offers up some straightforward coverage, as did Now Toronto, CNN manages to cover the interview without mentioning that I was doing the interviewing, Liz Gannes at All Things D focuses on comment moderation, and perhaps most interesting was Doree Shafrir's take at Buzzfeed, which was informed by her stint at Gawker:

I wouldn't say we exactly lived in fear of the commenters when I was at Gawker, but they were always there, looming, and no matter how many times we told ourselves not to look at them, it was impossible not to. The tone of a comment thread was set within 30 seconds of your post going up, and more often than not, what you wrote — particularly if it was personal — felt like an attack by a thousand spikes all piercing you at the same time. (That said, I think working at Gawker at the height of the obsessive Gawker commenter gave me a much thicker skin than most people who write online, so, thanks, everyone!)

The Gawker commenters had their own community, their own inside jokes. They knew each other by their handles. At yesterday's panel, a former Gawker commenter got up to ask a question, and informed the crowd that he had
once been named Commenter of the Year around the time I was there. (Former Jezebel editor Irin Carmon and I had simultaneous and similar responses, which were basically: Oh my god.)

But all the hand-wringing aside, and regardless of whether Gawker's new experiment in commenting succeeds, the thing that excites me here is that Nick is still experimenting, still trying new things. For too long, the fundamental assumptions and format of blogging have been stagnating, and the technology has barely been advancing. At the same time, there's been almost a casual acceptance of the shoddiness of conversations on and between blogs.

Worse, those who used to decry the incivility and snarkiness and, well, unproductive nature of much of what passes of comments on the web today are instead just participating in that culture themselves:

It's not enough for us to decry the worst things about the web. We have to actively work to change them. For my part, I think encouraging the conversation about these issues, getting those who have influence about them to publicly commit to making changes, and then working on promoting those experiments is the most productive thing I can do. Because if the web we have today isn't the one we always imagined we'd be working on, then we have to make the web we want.


Blog Advertising, Prescience and Seven Years

September 3, 2009

About seven years ago, Matt Haughey, Paul Bausch and Meg Hourihan ran a very cool early blogging community called Blogroots, which acted as watercooler for conversations about the evolution of the then-nascent medium.

I'd found some links to the site in the Web Archive a few months ago, and sent them around, and then was delighted to see one of them surface on its own again today. Gawker Media's Erin Pettigrew used the initial thread about the launch of Gizmodo (Gawker's first title), along with my post at the time as a jumping-off point for a look at Gawker's success seven years later. I'm a big fan of using the history of our blogs as a record of the lessons we've learned over the years, and I'm glad I wasn't (overly) harsh about Gawker's chances.

As far as advertising on blogs goes, though, I'll admit I've become a bit of a convert to the potential. Today's conversation prompted a quick glance at the numbers for the biggest blog advertising platforms in the U.S., revealing something kind of interesting:


Not too shabby, considering it's only been a little over a year since Six Apart Media launched. Another little trivia note — that first Gizmodo design, which inspired such an interesting conversation, was designed and implemented by Mena and Ben Trott, working as sort of an ancient ancestor of today's Six Apart Services. It's fun to see that everybody involved is not only still blogging, but succeeding at it.

Gawker Reinvention

December 3, 2007

It looks like I wasn't the only one having a Gawker reckoning; A remarkable post revealed that both Emily Gould and Choire Sicha are leaving the site. (Thanks to Rex for the link.)

That post impressively uses Carla Blumenkranz's words about Gawker to highlight the worst tendency of the site: "The status of Gawker rose as the overall status of its subjects declined, and it was this that made Gawker appear at times a reprehensible bully." I'd tried to make the same point, albeit less eloquently, in my own post a few weeks ago:

I'm all for snarky-smart assed blogging, I just think that emulating traditional media's willingness to destroy people who aren't villains isn't a strategy for long-term success.

Perhaps as impressive as Emily and Choire's self-reflection was Gawker's post announcing an opening for a new Managing Editor. It kind of makes explicit that this (re-?) imagining of Gawker is not as the site that takes down the traditional media by mocking them, but as the site that takes down the traditional media by stealing their advertising dollars. In their own words:

It's no longer enough to take stories from the New York Times, and add a dash of snark. Gawker needs to break and develop more stories. And the new managing editor will need to hire and manage reporters, as well as bloggers. receives more than 10m pageviews per month. Think of Gawker less as a blog than as a full-blown news site. The right candidate will oversee Gawker's evolution.

I always believed that those of us who were creating personal media online would win. I still hold out hope that when we do so, it's not because we were willing to fight dirtier (or work cheaper) than the media that inspired us, but rather because we could do a better job of making media than the legacy media does today. Congratulations to everybody involved for being willing to indulge in a little bit of the most positive sort of creative destruction.

On Blogs and Conversational Marketing

June 26, 2007

There's been a (mostly boring) conversation going between some blogs over the past few days regarding the line between editorial and advertising. Largely, this is a case of the same silly-meme-into-faux-fact path that I tried to document yesterday. In this case, it's a little less innocent -- Nick Denton used a Valleywag blog post to take a jab at John Battelle and FM Pub by implying its writers sold out by creating copy for a Microsoft campaign that ran on their sites.

The whole thing is, as I said, mostly boring, except that the idea of the post is what ended up being debated, instead of the fact that this is really a case of a not-that-serious personal rivalry turning into an assault on the credibility of a number of good bloggers. And a number of overrated ones, but that's beside the point.

Again with the disclaimers: I know both Nick and John, and like them both for what they're good at, as well as for what makes them different. And I have good friends in both of their companies. This isn't name-dropping; A big part of my job is making connections to people who do innovative things with blogs and in the blogging industry, and they both fall squarely into that description.

But Nick is being pretty transparently intellectually dishonest here -- throwing bombs at John and FM not because he believes what he's saying, but because he knows it'll get attention. The idea of advertising becoming more blog-like is a good thing. If every ad were written by an actual human, had a permanent link to its location, and let people share or tag it, we'd end up with a radically better advertising culture.

The idea of a media team creating advertising content isn't new -- it's as old as publishing itself. And it continues today. Here's Ziff Davis' Contract Publishing services. In public media, here's PBS' Red Book guidelines for underwriting content. Sure, it makes sense to have different teams be responsible for money and editorial. But in blogging, where the editor is the publisher and you can't split a one-person staff in half, merging these functions isn't just logical, it's inevitable. Perhaps if Nick hadn't been a pioneering blogger himself, I'd have believed he was simply mistaken.

In this case, though, we're fortunate to have some pretty articulate advocates for the idea of conversational marketing. For example, FM Pub's Chas Edwards does a great job of telling the story.

But perhaps the best advocate for this style of conversational marketing is Nick Denton. From three years ago (Emphasis mine):

For appropriate clients, Gawker Media will...

  • conceive a weblog campaign
  • provide editorial talent and oversight
  • create a co-branded page within one of the Gawker sites
  • design and build a standalone blog
  • promote the campaign weblog on Gawker sites
  • promote the campaign weblog on other weblogs
  • syndicate out the campaign blog content to news reader applications
  • distill and spotlight weblog buzz on the campaign

Some people will question the use of the weblog format in marketing. There is no straightforward answer. Contract publishing, online or offline, can be done well, or badly. It depends on the subject matter, and the tone. Dr Pepper/Seven Up seemed cynical in its exploitation of the weblog format when it launched, a site devoted to a new milk drink. However, a smart approach to an appropriate topic can work. Witness, Macromedia's product weblogs, or Jason Kottke's weblog campaign around the release of Adaptation, the movie.

In principle, campaign weblogs allow a marketer to participate in the weblog conversation, rather than observe it as a passive sponsor. Now we'll just have to see whether they work.

Seems reasonable to me. Or at least worth a try.

Update: Nick sent me an update with some very reasonable additions to my post. His email follows.

First of all, if you're going to imagine my motives, at least say that you're doing so, rather than pretend that you know. In fact, I was just rooting around for a story, on a very slow news story.

Second, for evidence of that, read the original post: I took to task, not Battelle, nor even Michael Arrington, but people I thought should know better, such as Om Malik and Paul Kedrosky.

"I can't blame Battelle's team for latching on to this idea. The campaign is slick; and Microsoft is a deep-pocketed client. But it's disappointing that so many of his most reputable writers have signed on as spokespeople. One would have thought that tech opinion-leaders as influential as Om Malik and Paul Kedrosky would ration their credibility more carefully, and reserve it for companies and products for which they felt real enthusiasm."

And, finally, good find on Gawker's old contract publishing business. However, one thing I'd appreciate you mentioning: we hired writers specially for the marketing copy writing, precisely because we didn't want to compromise the credibility of any of our editorial writers.