Gawker’s resurgence

I am so losing my bet. Thanks to Tom Cruise, Gawker is going to easily set a new record for pageviews this month. Remember that the old record was 11.5 million pageviews in the month of October; Gawker got 5.3 million pageviews in 4 days between January 15 and January 18.

The page with the Tom Cruise video has received over 1.8 million pageviews so far, and there’s another 400,000 or so over at Defamer, too. Nick knew that he had something unique and special on his hands, and he’s been taking full advantage of it, buying ads on other websites and driving a huge amount of traffic to the generic Tom Cruise page on Gawker. That’s smart: Nick wants readers of Gawker much more than he wants people who come for one video and then leave, never to return. And he seems to be getting those readers, judging by the ratio of total pageviews to video views over the past week.

Does this have anything to do with “Manhattan media news and gossip”, as the title of Gawker’s home page would have it? Well, no. But than again, as Nick will readily admit, Gawker’s pageviews have always been goosed by Hollywood celebrity gossip, even all the way back in the Age of Spiers. He’s not fussy: he’ll take those pageviews where he can get them. There’s nothing new or underhanded about this method of getting traffic, and Nick has won the bet (which he never actually took) fair and square.

Indeed, Nick, in hosting this video and keeping it up in the face of nastygrams from the Scientologists, has shown himself to have bigger cojones than his former employers at the FT.

I’m also glad that Gakwer Media has scaled enough, over the years, that Nick is capable of pulling this off. Back in the day, this quantity of traffic — especially video traffic — would have brought Gawker’s servers crashing down. And Nick and I actually received the same C&D back in March 2003, from Puma — back then, he didn’t have an in-house lawyer to reply to such things, and the great Khoi Vinh even offered money to help defend the lawsuit — which, of course, never materialized.

Today, Nick is a fully-fledged new-media mogul, and he has a monopoly on this video, since YouTube won’t host it, and Nick won’t allow it to be embedded on other websites. He’s managed to alight on one of the very, very few instances of internet content which can’t easily be copied and posted elsewhere, and he’s taken full advantage of that. I also give him full credit for obtaining the video and working out how to post it on his own web page: this is not elementary stuff.

We’ll see in February how much of this Tom Cruise spike translates into lasting traffic for Gawker; I suspect it might actually be quite high. Certainly there’s some real buzz surrounding the brand now, and it’s not of the pornographically scatological variety, either. If Jezebel is the new Gawker, appealing to the creative underclass, then maybe Gawker is the new Defamer, appealing to a slightly more sophisticated breed of celebrity-gossip consumer.

Back in December 2002, Nick wrote this:

Gawker is an online magazine for Manhattan launching in January 2003. It’s target audience is the city’s media and financial elite. Think of it as the New York Observer, crossed with Jim Romenesko’s MediaNews. The publication will be supported by advertising, primarily from real estate brokers and luxury goods retailers. It adopts the weblog format, and relies on links to external content.

Of course, it didn’t quite work out that way. But one of the reasons that Nick has become so successful is that he isn’t wedded to ideas which don’t work out. There are those of us who would very much like to be able to read a Gawker as it was originally envisaged. But one can hardly blame Nick for following the money.

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