August 3, 2021
Gawker — the former online site covering news related to celebrities, media figures and tech entrepreneurs — is live again, headed by Leah Finnegan who has held editing positions with The Outline, The New York Times and The Huffington Post. Started by journalist Nick Denton in 2002, Gawker became an irreverent digital destination and the base of Gawker Media, which also included Deadspin for sports, Gizmodo for technology and Kotaku for gaming. The company was brought down by a 2016 invasion-of-privacy lawsuit filed by Hulk Hogan (and bankrolled by Silicon Valley’s Peter Thiel).
The New York Times reports that Thiel’s suit was sparked “by a Gawker post that reported, without his permission, that he is gay.” Gawker Media sites (not including Gawker) were sold to Univision for $135 million; “Denton departed and the flagship site shut down.”
In 2018, Bustle Digital Group (BDG) chief executive Bryan Goldberg paid $1.35 million for the Gawker name at a bankruptcy auction. According to the BDG site, the company is “the fastest growing publisher in modern media” with 84 million readers and 55 million social fans. Its brands include Bustle, Elite Daily, Input, Inverse, Mic, Nylon, Romper, W and TZR.
When BDG approached Finnegan last year to lead a relaunch, she said, “absolutely no way in hell.” But, approached again in January, she said yes, noting wryly that her “selling points as a potential editor-in-chief” in addition to previous work at Gawker and Bustle and being unemployed was that she was “also willing to do it, which not many people can say.”
Gawker was relaunched with coverage of celebrities, the universe and Gawker itself, with Goldberg “submit[ing] himself to an email interview in a new series, ‘How Much Money Do You Have?’.” “If there is one website that could get me sued into oblivion, then it is almost certainly Gawker,” he said. But he admitted that it was unlikely it would “pick a petty and ill-conceived fight with a deca-billionaire,” and Finnegan added that, due to “the current laws of civility … [Gawker] can’t be exactly what it once was.”
Variety reports that, “BDG had planned to relaunch Gawker in 2019 but Goldberg aborted the plans and laid off the staff he’d hired after logistical challenges and reported clashes among employees.” With a new staff and Finnegan at the helm, the new version is now up and running.
When asked about the site’s “frenetic design, which among things crops off much of the site’s logo on the homepage,” Finnegan said: “You might notice it all looks a little different, and to that I say ‘a change of scenery enriches the soul.’ So, I hope you like it. And if you don’t, that’s really more of a ‘you’ problem, I think.”
Last week, BDG acquired “Some Spider Studios, the holding company of parenting content brands Scary Mommy, Fatherly and The Dad, in a stock deal said to be worth around $150 million.”