It’s a bittersweet moment. Jezebel has been Gawker’s most successful ever launch, and Conde Nast‘s acquisition of the women’s site is the ultimate validation. But it’s heartbreaking to let Jezebel go, and part with Anna Holmes, Dodai Stewart, Moe Tkacik, Tracie Egan, Jennifer Gerson and Jessica Grose, the writers who brought a new tone and intelligence to coverage on the web of fashion, media and relationships. It wasn’t an easy decision.
The short of it is that we’re entering an advertising recession, and the internet will, whatever the wishful thinkers believe, not be immune. Rupert Murdoch’s closure of Page Six website is harbinger of the tough times to come. All web publishers will have to make hard choices about the properties they’ve launched during the good years.
At Gawker Media, we’re determined to make those choices sooner rather than later, putting sentiment to one side. Already in 2006, we sold or shuttered three sites—Oddjack, Screenhead and Sploid—that either weren’t performing or didn’t fit the rest of our portfolio. The internet boom, even then, seemed unsustainable. We told the New York Times then we were “hunkering down.” That wasn’t the last of it; nor can I say that the disposal of Jezebel will be the end of this rationalization.
Jezebel obviously wasn’t sold because it was flailing. The site drew more than 14m pageviews last month, an extraordinary achievement for a title which is less than a year old. But the bulk of Gawker Media’s traffic and advertising, despite the attention paid to our more gossipy blogs, goes to the group’s geekier titles such as Gizmodo, Kotaku and Lifehacker. We have to decide where we’re going to hold the line.
Gawker is a technology media company, in a fierce battle with companies such as CNET and AOL’s Weblogs Inc unit; Jezebel will be more easily monetized by Conde Nast, which has a portfolio of similar properties, and a sales team which can deliver package deals to cosmetics companies and other marketers. It’s hard to admit, but Jezebel will be in better hands.
One plea. Jezebel’s popularity derives from its willingness—eagerness—to break with the generic blandness of women’s magazines and websites. Jezebel is anything but bland. In the effort to sell more advertising on the site, I hope that Conde Nast doesn’t chill the vitality of Moe and Tracie and Jezebel’s other writer-provocateurs.