Slaves to Facebook. Gawker Media, the network of news and gossip websites, is changing leaders. Owner Nick Denton overnight said he would step back as president to share power with a seven-person board as the site feels the rising pressure from newer online media models.
Denton started one of the first aggregator of blogs in 2002, but even early media disruptors like his are now feeling the rising tide of competition from groups such as BuzzFeed and Vox. The Financial Times and other media outlets reported that Denton had revealed his plans in a long memo to staff overnight. Denton said he would “share power more broadly” with a “managing partnership”, which would make decisions by consensus or majority vote. It will include Denton, who will remain chief executive:
“In my absence, the company ticks along nicely; with the challenge of BuzzFeed and Vox, ticking along nicely is no longer enough.”
Denton’s memo also detailed other organisational changes, such as the creation of a new “product innovation team”. He discussed problems with communication inside and outside the company, difficulties in developing its Kinja publishing platform, and an over-reliance on social media.
“Editorial traffic was lifted but often by viral stories that we would rather mock. We — the freest journalists on the planet — were slaves to the Facebook algorithm.”
He vowed a return to Gawker’s roots in blogging, which he described as “the only truly new media in the age of the web”.
There won’t be much sympathy for Gawker’s problems and Denton among the staggering survivors in the legacy and dead tree media. Could it bee that these survivors will outlast some of these digital groups, or even buy them in future years as the founders tire of the intensity and pressure and want to cash in and do something else — even retire? — Glenn Dyer
Rowling scores. Forget Oprah and all those other women and men in the arts who are at times listed as being the most powerful in the entertainment world. Look at the complex deal J.K. Rowling has just struck for her new detective series and conclude that she is No. 1. By the time the new series of her two Robert Galbraith novels (so far) hit the screen late next year on UK TV, she will have written, helped market and controlled the adaptation and production of the new series in its entirety, with the help of trusted advisers who helped bring her Harry Potter novels to the screen.
The highly structured deal she struck for her first non-Potter book, The Casual Vacancy, has provided the template for the way she will control the two Galbraith novels. The BBC won the race for the books by agreeing to produce the first two Cormoran Strike titles from Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) in a co-production with HBO in the United States. Meanwhile the BBC’s adaptation with Bronte Film and Television of Rowling’s first non-Harry Potter book, The Casual Vacancy, has been turned into a three-part series and will debut on BBC One in February of next year. The two Cormoran Strike titles are The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm.
Bronte Film and Television is J.K. Rowling’s own production company. The Casual Vacancy is not only being produced by Bronte, it is being overseen by The Blair Partnership, which is producing it for Bronte and itself represents Rowling. One of the founders of Blair, Neil Blair, worked at Warner Bros. for many years. In addition to numerous other film projects (including Eyes Wide Shut and Band of Brothers), he helped acquire the film rights to the Harry Potter series for Warner Bros. In other words, Rowling trusts him. — Glenn Dyer
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