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Nick Denton Says Gawker Media Is Booming, Moving -- And Fighting the Good Fight

Wait. Nick Denton, the guy who brought you Hulk Hogan's sex tape, said what?

Gawker Media
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Remember when Gawker was a single site dedicated to skewering New York’s media elite?

That was a long time ago! Now Nick Denton’s blog empire boasts eight sites, with 280 employees, and Denton, via Quantcast, says they’re generating 80 million uniques a month. Time for a fancy new office, he says, in a memo he just sent to his staff.

If you like pictures, here’s a mock-up of the new 60,000 square foot space Gawker will be taking in New York’s Flatiron district, just a few blocks from frenemy Jonah Peretti, whose BuzzFeed is also getting new space soon.

Gawker Media office space

If you like words, you can read his memo below, which also includes a couple revenue superlatives.

More interesting, for longtime Denton-watchers, may be the way he describes his company’s role in the world: “At stake is not just our own long-term future, but the viability of intelligent independent media in a sector dominated by hype-fueled ventures, media conglomerates and tech giants,” he writes. “For want of others seeking the role, we are the guardians of independent media.”

That’s not the kind of thing Denton would ever have said in the past — he’d be the guy who would skewer someone who described himself that way. But he’d only get around to doing it after he posted pictures of Brett Favre’s penis or Hulk Hogan’s sex tape.

Via IM, Denton says this kind of thinking is the product of “New Denton,” who I gather showed up in time for his wedding in May.

Bear in mind that one of New Denton’s sites recently published a (very popular) series of illustrations featuring the penises of Disney characters, so this isn’t a 180. But it’s an interesting turn nonetheless.

Here’s more of New Denton:

I have some big news about the company’s expansion and future plans. In particular, we will be moving out of the walk-up Nolita loft space that has been our home since 2008. Earlier today, we signed a lease for three floors of 114 Fifth Avenue.
It’s a long-term commitment funded from our growth over the last three years — and a mark of our confidence in the prospects for online media, and our own trajectory.
But let’s recap where we are first. As a company, we’ve been quiet — and that’s only in part to do with me being away on honeymoon and sabbatical.
We’re a financially sober independent company in an online media sector drunk on cheap finance and its own hype. And we’ve been heads-down, working on Kinja, the platform for bloggers that is our model for the future of independent media.
Our engineers have built the foundations of our own social discovery network, with functions such as follow and star proving increasingly useful signals for content recommendations.
New Kinja-enabled spin-offs such as Foxtrot Alpha and Indefinitely Wild show one can recapture the intimacy and fun of an independent blog, while maintaining the scale of a viable media business.
The forthcoming version of the Editor is the most considered user interface we’ve developed, an indicator of things to come.
And we’re upgrading engineering and product management to ensure our talented developers in Budapest and New York are stretched to their full potential.
I believe, with Marc Andreessen, that software is eating the world. The media ecosystem is no exception; in fact it is crying out for simplification and streamlining through software.
If there’s any eating to be done, we’ll be one of the companies around the table. At stake is not just our own long-term future, but the viability of intelligent independent media in a sector dominated by hype-fueled ventures, media conglomerates and tech giants.
But in the meantime, our eight core media properties are growing fast — and that demands new space.
Revenues from direct advertising and e-commerce are running 32% ahead of last year. The monthly US audience across the eight core brands hit 80m in August, 63% ahead of a year ago. Headcount is 280, up from 230.
We are bursting at the seams in both Budapest and New York.
The new New York office will be located at 114 Fifth Avenue. We’ve taken on three floors totaling nearly 60,000 sq feet. We’ll be subletting one of the floors for a few years, with plans to expand into it later.
From 17th Street, Gawker Media will have its own walk-up entrance. That will provide the cultural continuity with our longtime Nolita space. (We couldn’t imagine mischievous bloggers going through the main lobby.) For staff coming from Williamsburg and several other Brooklyn locations, the subway commute will be seven minutes shorter.
The office will be on the second and third floors, with a public and performance space connecting the two. That will be open, a thoroughfare designed to promote random interaction. By contrast, the working space will be arranged in what we call studios, spaces contained on three sides designed for teams of half a dozen people or so to collaborate on projects without disturbing others.
A similar concept informs our plans for the new Budapest office, which we are developing together with the design team at Brody House, the organization that has often hosted us in Budapest. Their mandate is to restore a 30,000-square-foot building at Andrassy ut 66, the former office building of the state railways, in the style that we like so much in their other properties.
Brody will be creating a mixed-use space — comprising a cafe, bar and retail space — on the ground floor. We’ll renovate the other floors to be offices for ourselves and Hungarian media, design and technology startups.
We ran Gawker Media’s Budapest operation for several years out of an apartment in Ujlipotvaros. In New York, we used to work out of my apartment on Crosby Street, and then across the road at what is now a bike shop.
In the New Yorker profile, I explained my reluctance to take on the fixed cost of an office. “If you run it out of your house, then no one expects anything.” We have higher expectations of ourselves now. For want of others seeking the role, we are the guardians of independent media.
It’s a daunting responsibility that I would never have expected. The transition — from model for independent media to platform for independent media — will be a long one. This is the working environment that we deserve.

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