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Nick Denton Says Facebook Is the Boss, and Gawker Will Fall in Line

Also: Is that Hulk Hogan lawsuit actually a blessing in disguise?

Amelia Krales for Re/code

A year ago, at our Code/Media conference in southern California, Gawker founder Nick Denton said he wanted to keep the increasingly powerful media force of Facebook at arm’s length.

"We can’t afford to be dependent on them because we have something that we want to do and that requires us to be independent — not just financially independent, but independent of platforms," Denton said at the time.

In the year since, on the eve of the 2016 Code/Media conference, two big things have changed: Gawker is no longer financially independent, having sold a minority stake to investment firm Columbus Nova; and Denton is steering into the inevitable trend of publishing on other platforms, such as Facebook Instant Articles.

He talked about both of those things at length with Peter Kafka on the latest episode of "Re/code Decode," saying fighting Facebook in 2016 is like fighting gravity.

"Who is best positioned in this world to target ads against categories of users?" Denton asked. "Who knows the most about those users? Who can supply the most relevant ads in a way that doesn’t degrade the experience? I think Facebook is, in contrast to much of the ad tech ecosystem, a coherent strategy and I think they can provide a better experience."

Amelia Krales for Re/code

He was joined in the first half of this episode by Columbus Nova’s managing director and new Gawker board member Jason Epstein. The decision to take outside investment for the first time in the online media company’s history arose from the expected costs of a legal battle with the former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, who is suing Gawker Media for invasion of privacy, asking $100 million.

"The Hulk Hogan issue, other than comic value to me, is really nothing more than a time and money question," Epstein said.

"I wonder whether we’ll look back at this whole period and think of the Hulk Hogan lawsuit as something that was painful to go through, but which put us on a better path," Denton added.

Listen to or download the episode in the player above, or click here to subscribe to "Re/code Decode" on iTunes; you can also find "Re/code Decode" on TuneIn, Stitcher and Clammr.

Kara Swisher will be in this space on Monday to talk with "The Geography of Genius" author Eric Weiner, and Peter Kafka will be back next Thursday to talk to ex-Aereo CEO Chet Kanojia, who just launched a new company called Starry.

If you like this show, don’t miss our newest podcast, "Too Embarrassed to Ask." It’s a bigger and better version of Lauren Goode and Kara Swisher’s weekly Q&A segment from "Re/code Decode." Click here to subscribe to the new show on iTunes right now. And you should also check out "Re/code Replay," an archive of audio content from our events and interviews by Kara Swisher, Walt Mossberg, Peter Kafka, Ina Fried and more. To subscribe to that, click right here.

You can follow @Recode on Twitter for the latest on upcoming guests.

If you like what we’re doing, please write a review on iTunes — and if you don’t, just tweet-strafe Kara and Peter. You can also suggest guests for the show on Twitter and we’ll do our best to nab them for a Red Chair interview.

This article originally appeared on

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