I’m quoted* in Allen Salkin’s NYT article on Gawker tomorrow. I thought that he’d place more emphasis on the importance of Gawker’s commenters for generating pageviews, since we talked quite a lot about that, but I guess Sunday Styles doesn’t like getting into numbers.
So here’s the big idea which didn’t make it into the article. Gawker’s unique visitors have been stagnant for two years: they essentially reached their present level at the end of 2005. Gawker’s pageviews continued to grow through 2006, as (a) Nick Denton increased the number of blog entries with a “jump” which required navigating away from the home page; and (b) the comments system became very sophisticated and capable of drawing people back to the same post dozens of times in succession.
But then, at the end of 2006, Denton found himself unable to grow the pageviews-to-unique-visitors ratio any further, and both pageviews and uniques were basically unchanged through 2007.
At the moment, Gawker is going through the biggest change in its history, and no one knows how it’s going to turn out. But I’m quite sure that Denton, having maximized the pageviews-to-uniques ratio, has realized that the only way of increasing pageviews at this point is to increase the number of unique visitors that the site receives.
But here’s the problem: the very posts which will help bring in new unique visitors (Denton wants Gawker to be “a national media gossip and pop culture site, which is based in new york, but can attract a national audience”) also risk being the posts which alienate Gawker’s core commenter audience.
In other words, Denton might succeed in goosing Gawker’s uniques — but only at the cost of a declining pageviews-to-uniques ratio. Which is why I think it’s going to be hard for him to boost pageviews.
Meanwhile, the “creative underclass” which used to owned by Gawker has increasingly migrated to Jezebel — after all, there’s no doubt that the creative underclass skews very female. In November and December, Jezebel got more pageviews than Gawker — which is really impressive for a site which only launched in May.
So Nick Denton, qua Gawker Media overlord, is sitting pretty: he’s getting more pageviews and creative-class attention than ever, thanks to Jezebel. But as Gawker editor, Denton has a tougher job.
*For the record: I did use the word “skeevy” in my conversation with Salkin; I was not misquoted. But I used it in the context of the title of a blog entry I wrote in 2006 — which is something no NYT reader is going to understand. But hey, insofar as Salkin’s Sunday Styles piece is saying that Gawker’s getting skeevy, it’s only two years behind the felixsalmon.com curve!