Gawker.com, which punctured the egos of media executives and celebrities and injected a much-imitated snarky tone into internet writing, will shut down after 14 years of operation, the website announced Thursday.
Univision, the Spanish-language broadcaster and digital publisher, agreed to purchase Gawker Media’s stable of sites for $135 million in a bankruptcy auction held this week. The deal is expected to be approved Thursday.
But the flagship site, Gawker.com, apparently didn’t fit into Univision’s plans. The publisher has made a big push into the millennial digital space through the acquisitions of The Root and The Onion and the takeover of Fusion, of which it had owned half. It will continue to operate six other former Gawker Media properties: Gizmodo, Deadspin, Jezebel, Kotaku, Lifehacker and Jalopnik.
In a Thursday memo to staff, Gawker Media founder Nick Denton said he was relieved to have found “the best possible harbor” for the six sites through the deal with Univision, and announced that he would be leaving the company.
“Sadly, neither I nor Gawker.com, the buccaneering flagship of the group I built with my colleagues, are coming along for this next stage,” Denton wrote. “Desirable though the other properties are, we have not been able to find a single media company or investor willing also to take on Gawker.com. The campaign being mounted against its editorial ethos and former writers has made it too risky. I can understand the caution.”
Gawker.com staffers were uncertain in recent days whether Univision would continue operating the site, which triggered a high-profile lawsuit that bankrupted the company and may have made the Gawker brand too toxic for some advertisers. Denton was forced to sell the company after losing a $140 million invasion of privacy lawsuit leveled by Terry Bollea (professionally known as Hulk Hogan) and financed by billionaire PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
Over the past 14 years, Gawker.com has been an incubator for talent in the media industry, and journalists quickly mourned the site’s closing on Twitter.
The site has stoked controversy before, most notably when running ― and then removing ― a story about a little-known publishing executive allegedly soliciting a prostitute.
Bollea sued Gawker over the 2012 publication of a snippet of a sex tape he was featured in. Gawker argued that publication was protected under the First Amendment, but a Florida jury sided with Bollea.
Bollea appeared to react to the news on Thursday:
Thiel held a nearly decade-long grudge against Gawker since one of its now-shuttered sites, Valleywag, reported that he was gay. His decision to secretly back Bollea’s lawsuit, and others against Gawker, has stoked fears that similarly aggrieved billionaires may try to silence media companies they disagree with.
In its post on the upcoming closure, Gawker noted that staffers at the flagship site will be assigned roles at the other six sites or throughout Univision.
I am relieved that, with the approval today of the agreement with Univision, that we have found the best possible harbor for Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Kotaku, Jalopnik, Jezebel and Deadspin, and our talented writers and other staff. They will be joining The Onion, ClickHole and other beloved web properties in Fusion Media Group, the digital operation of Univision. Isaac Lee and the team at Fusion are fellow spirits, as committed to real journalism and an open future as they are to digital media expansion.Sadly, neither I nor Gawker.com, the buccaneering flagship of the group I built with my colleagues, are coming along for this next stage. Desirable though the other properties are, we have not been able to find a single media company or investor willing also to take on Gawker.com. The campaign being mounted against its editorial ethos and former writers has made it too risky. I can understand the caution.Even if the appeals court overturns this spring’s Florida jury verdict, Peter Thiel has already achieved many of his objectives.I will move on to other projects, working to make the web a forum for the open exchange of ideas and information, but out of the news and gossip business.Gawker.com may, like Spy Magazine in its day, have a second act. For the moment, however, it will be mothballed, until the smoke clears and a new owner can be found. The archives will remain, but Monday’s posts will be the last of this iteration.I am proud of what we have achieved at Gawker Media Group, both in our work and our business, never more so than in these last few months.Our bloggers ― and the alumni now dispersed through the media from the New Yorker to the New York Times ― have introduced a new style of journalism, sometimes enthusiastic, sometimes snarky, but always authentic. We connect with a skeptical and media-savvy generation by giving them the real story, the version that journalists used to keep to themselves.Without outside capital, we bootstrapped a profitable digital media operation. With only the talent and energy of our writers and other staff, we have drawn one of the most influential audiences in digital media: our stories connect with 100m people a month around the world. In 2016’s dance of media consolidation, the company has found a partner that understands our appeal and character;not all will have that luck.As for Gawker.com, founded in 2003 and mothballed in 2016, it will live on in legend. As the short-lived killer android is told in Blade Runner: “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very very brightly.”