How Things Work
Gawker.com is shutting down today, Monday 22nd August, 2016, some 13 years after it began and two days before the end…
Randomly re-reading the very last thing posted on Gawker, a piece written by founder and publisher Nick Denton outlining the history and demise of the site, published in August 2016.
Makes me wonder about where Gawker would be if it were still alive today, or why it is nothing similar has arisen in its place. Have the power structures Gawker so effectively attacked become too entrenched or too boring to be susceptible to scrutiny? Or has the culture has gotten too diffuse and too decentralized for there to be an operation like Gawker to prod at it as a whole? Or did snark die on the vine as a primary mode of cultural criticism, smothered by smarm?
Anyway, sort of a fascinating read in this moment, this section especially:
But Gawker did overextend itself, as an enterprise. We were internet exceptionalists, believing that that from blogs, forums and messaging would emerge a new world of unlimited freedom to associate and to express. We still believed we could, like the early bloggers, say everything. We believed that broader access to confidential information, to the real story, would constrain the powerful and liberate the oppressed.
And we believed that, as a business, this model could work. That being beholden only to our readers was not only an editorial value, but the key to building an audience that advertisers would want to reach in the new medium. We had no list of protected personalities or clients or brands, but we had at our peak a million people each day. The readers were there, and they were our defense against our detractors.
But the readers don’t have the power. It’s difficult to recall now, but at Gawker’s founding there was a sense that the internet was a free space, where anything can be said. An island off the mainland, where people could be themselves. Where writers could say things that would get you fired in an instant from a print publication. Where you could say what you thought without fear of being fired, or sued out of existence. But when you try to make a business out of that freedom, the system will fight you.