Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Simple Guide to the Best of Gawker

Gawker is the New York Times of blog-based news sites. Whereas the Times goes after stories with a solemn and sincere outlook, Gawker attacks stories with a vengeful, righteous and irreverent vigor. Critics - envious reporters and bloggers, straightjacketed in their self-imposed roles of striving to maintain the status quo, routinely slam Gawker and its sister blogs for being 'flippant' and 'controversy mongers'.

This brief timeline of controversies related to Gawker and its sister blogs will show you how Nick Denton has carefully cultivated an image 'snarky irreverence', while all this while, his guys have really set the standard for blogging excellence - asking the 'right questions', exposing uncomfortable truths and going all out on this culture of celebrity.

Gawker is what many journalists and bloggers secretly aim to be. But, they missed the class on 'Dead Poets' Society', that’s all. They might check Gawker obsessively on daily basis, but are afraid to admit in public that the Gawker sites actually do some serious shit.

Gawker may appear as the Johnny Knoxville of news blogging to 'serious' people, but few people know that the Jackass star also produced a great documentary film about Appalachian mountain dancer Jesco White and his notorious family, titled 'The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia'. Appearances distract.

Some already say that Gawker is no more a blog. I totally agree. Gawker is turning into a quite a reporting powerhouse. Yes folks, it is true.

The Gawker Controversy Timeline:
The "Gawker Stalker" feature (2005- ): Gawker seeks users to post details of celebrity sightings.

Gawker vs. Wyclef Jean (2010): Gawker reports about the shady operations of a pop singer's charity.

Gawker's True Blood Promo site controversy: It pushes the so-called, mostly non-existing boundary between advertising and editorial content, when HBO gets Gawker to host a site on Tru Blood, which looked like a Gawker media site. Later, an editor at Gawker actually owns up and publishes a post titled, "About that Vampire blog thing" .
Gawker vs. 4Chan (2010) - 4Chan users launched an attack on Gawker Media's servers, angry over Gawker's story on how they coordinated the harassment of an 11-year-old girl.
[Note: Later, Gawker did a positive coverage of 4Chan too, when the site's users rallied to cheer up an old World War 2 veteran on his birthday. ]
Gawker vs. Christine O'Donnell (2010): Gawker publishes an anonymous account of a young man from Philadelphia who had a naked sleepover with Delaware GOP senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell.

I have mentioned how cleverly Gawker disguises its genuine intentions with all that inane and banal celebrity coverage. Hidden behind all that you will also helpful guides like these:

The Gawker Guide to a Journalism Career, 2010 Edition
The Fake Journalist Party Crasher Guide
Checkbook Journalism - Part 1 - The Lost iPhone (2010) - Gizmodo vs. Apple: Gizmodo publishes details about the next iPhone, which was found lost in a bar. It paid $5,000 for the iPhone prototype. In retaliation, Apple got the authorities to Gizmodo Editor's Home, confesticate his computer, and for a while, it appeared that the controversy would bankrupt Gawker.

Gizmodo's Comdex 2008 tricks: Gizmodo writers use the TV-B-Gone hoodie, which was on show, to shut off displays in booths and in the middle of major product presentations. The idea: To take it out on the supposed seriousness of reporting from trade shows.
The iPhone 4 Retina Display Controversy: Gizmodo get an expert to debunk Apple's claim about the iPhone 4's display: "The pixel density is so high that the human eye is unable to distinguish individual pixels."

Gizmodo vs. the 'PR-fed world of gadget writing': Joel Johnson, a former Gizmodo editor, writes about the rise and dangers of current state of gadget/technology journalism. He actually accuses Gizmodo readers of ignoring stories about how technology made a difference, and instead reading about "new chromed robot turd to put in your pocket and impress your friends." That's not all, Joel goes on to say, "And you guys just ate it up. Kept buying shitty phones and broken media devices green and dripping with DRM. "

The best part of this story is that Gizmodo, where Joel used to work previously, publishes his opinion piece.
Now just a sub-domain on, Valleywag got under the skin of quite many Silicon Valley types. It took on 'Press Releasy' technology news sites, over-hyped Internet startups and of course the egos of self-important Valley personalities. As a result, it was habitually hated by who mattered.

After Nick Denton fired Nick Douglas from Valleywag, for going beyond the "take-people-down" brief, this is what he said in an internal memo:

We don’t report stories to “finally get sued.” We report stories because we think they deserve to be out there.

A sample Valleywag story on startup funding went like this: MerchantCircle gets new funding to continue spam campaign (2007) - MerchantCircle has secured an additional $10 million in series B funding...

Can you spot the difference from other technology blogs?
In contrast, a Techcrunch story on MerchantCircle goes like this: MerchantCircle Adds Mayorships For Small Businesses.

Most tech reporting is so sad, I don't even want to link to Techcrunch for this one. My apologies.
Gawker sold Consumerist to Consumer Reports. It made a name for itself by going after anti-consumer companies.

For example, here, Consumerist exposes Dell's shady sales practices, which promptly gets Dell's legal people to send a takedown notice.

Even with its new owners, Consumerist continues its pro-consumer agenda with stories like, "Best Buy caught in Consumerist investigation" or,"Consumerist 'Worst Ad In America' Nominees"
A site dedicated to women issues, Jezebel starts with this manifesto of sorts, which attacks what's wrong with women's magazines:

The Five Great Lies Of Women's Magazines

Jezebel vs. Jon Stewart (2010): Jezebel takes on the Daily Show's Jon Stewart , criticizing the show for its 'sexist' hiring policies here and here.

Jezebel exposes Redbook (2007): Jezebel caches the Photoshop trickery of the Redbook women's magazine.
Checkbook Journalism - Part 2 - Jalopnik Puts Up $5000 Bounty For Top Gear USA Pilot (2010): The car blog from Gawker media puts up a $5000 bounty to the first person to provide them with a copy of a Top Gear America pilot episode that was filmed, but never released episode.
Jalopnik exposes the truth about the reality of Muscle car comparisons
This blog on all things sci-fi is probably the best niche blog there is.

In 2009, while almost all were singing high praises of James Cameron's "Avatar", publishes this story about whether Cameron ripped off the story called "Call Me Joe" by Paul Anderson.

Related readings:
Nine Online Media Lessons from Gawker's Nick Denton
Why Blog Controversy is a Good Thing (Even When it’s About You)
A simpleguide to the biggest moments in the Indian Blogosphere
A timeline of blog acquisitions

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iPad-based magazines are bloated and user-unfriendly

Khoi Vinh, who worked as Design Director of, is not happy with the current state of iPad-based magazines, which he thinks,

...they run counter to how people use tablets today and, unless something changes, will remain at odds with the way people will use tablets as the medium matures. They're bloated, user-unfriendly and map to a tired pattern of mass media brands trying vainly to establish beachheads on new platforms without really understanding the platforms at all.

Khoi thinks magazine-mode is dead:
...a magazine represents is a mode that people are decreasingly interested in, that is making less and less sense as we forge further into this century, and that makes almost no sense on a tablet. As usual, these publishers require users to dive into environments that only negligibly acknowledge the world outside of their brand, if at all - a problem that's abetted and exacerbated by the full-screen, single-window posture of all iPad software. In a media world that looks increasingly like the busy downtown heart of a city - with innumerable activities, events and alternative sources of distraction around you - these apps demand that you confine yourself to a remote, suburban cul-de-sac.


Also read this:
Are iPad News Applications Merely Glorified CD ROMs?


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Only Blogging Manifesto You Need

In The New York Times, David Carr writes about The Awl, a promising, small blogging outfit run by Choire Sicha, Alex Balk, and David Cho. Here, Choire voices the pressures we bloggers face and how he deals with it:

“My friends keep talking to me about how they want to start a Web site, but they need to get some backing, and I look at them and ask them what they are waiting for,” Mr. Sicha said. “All it takes is some WordPress and a lot of typing. Sure, I went broke trying to start it, it trashed my life and I work all the time, but other than that, it wasn’t that hard to figure out.”

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The Top Rule of Local Blogging

Dave Winer:

Rule #1 of local blogging: If you hear fire trucks in the night, in the morning you should be able to find out where the fire was.

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