New Yorker profile of Nick Denton dives into online news profit

Earlier this month, the New Yorker had a big profile of Nick Denton, who famously launched in 2002 national blog network Gawker Media. It’s interesting, of course, for its personality, but I was drawn most to a few grafs focusing on news profitability.

Check out the profile in its entirety — or another recent big profile on him from New York Magazine — but below, find my favorite sections.

First, on the power and influence of metrics and how it hasn’t yet fully had its impact on journalism:

“I think people are sort of waking up to it now, how probably the biggest change in Internet media isn’t the immediacy of it, or the low costs, but the measurability,” Denton told me. “Which is actually terrifying if you’re a traditional journalist, and used to pushing what people ought to like, or what you think they ought to like.”

He is fond of suggesting that newspapers would be shamed into shuttering their Albany bureaus if they acknowledged the full breadth of their readers’ habits, beyond the “ten most e-mailed” lists. No “traditional” journalistic outfit has yet copied this particular innovation of Denton’s, although Jacob Weisberg, the editor of the Slate Group and a wary admirer, admitted to me that he has lately “sort of wanted to,” adding that “people are afraid it has implications that will be followed.”

And then he takes on what are really threats to journalism:

What traditional journalists ought to fear, Denton suggested, is not Gawker but so-called content farms, like Demand Media, which dispense altogether with professional storytelling, in favor of search-engine-optimized information packaging.Even Denton’s own writers live in constant dread of diminishing word counts and the inevitable dumbing down of the culture. (One of them confessed his fear to me about “the robots” taking over.) “How things show up on Twitter, these days, matters more than the full text,” Denton told me. “There’s no room for nuance in headlines anymore.” He offered a couple of suggestions for this account: “Ten Things You Need to Know about Nick Denton,” “Why Nick Denton Is an Asshole.”

And then a look at what Gawker could mean:

It’s a sustainable business, predicated, in part, on the endlessly renewable resource of young misfits seeking the exposure and excitement afforded by “reporting live, from the center of the universe,” as an old Gawker tag line put it. But can it be big business? “Maybe this is like Craigslist, where billions of dollars of value is destroyed, and only a tiny fraction of that is actually captured by the new winners,” Denton said, giving me what he called the “pessimistic view” of new media. “Or you could look at it like this is the early days of cable. You know, cable took a long time to get off the ground. But then, once you’ve got the franchise established, if you own MTV or the sci-fi channel, at some point it really starts to kick in.”

Back on 2008, Guardian had its own big profile of Denton. Also, check out the Forbes blog post following the conversation this New Yorker profile sparked, in which Denton is compared to News Corp. giant Rupert Murdoch.

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