In Experiment, Gawker Goes ‘Traffic Whoring’

New editor hopes to replicate his winning formula at Deadspin with network's flagship site

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A.J. Daulerio, the editor of Gawker’s Deadspin who was known for sensational stunts like publishing photos of what it claimed were Brett Favre’s naughty bits, hasn’t shed his unconventional approach now that he’s top editor of the company’s news and gossip flagship.

After posting a personal email from Brian Williams intended only for Gawker boss Nick Denton, Daulerio went on to launch an experiment in “traffic whoring” that puts one writer in charge of writing viral posts.

Daulerio said the point of the exercise was actually to free the rest of the staff to work on bigger stories of their choice. The biggest impediment to Gawker’s writers, as he saw it, was the site’s focus on hit-friendly aggregation and snarky TV recaps.

“Gawker has traditionally been known for doing as many posts as possible day in and day out,” he told Adweek. “I didn’t like how a lot of the writers were seemingly chasing after stories that were sent in as tips and then kind of just divvying up what they found on the Internet that day. If people start to see that as the second portion of their job and start thinking of the bigger stories as their main priority, it will help them enjoy their job a little more.”

Denton agreed, saying, “Gawker has the strongest collection of writers it has ever had, but they weren’t enjoying themselves as much as they should.”

The new approach has resulted in pieces like “The Mercenary Techie Who Troubleshoots for Drug Dealers and Jealous Lovers,” a 1,963-word account of a tech geek who services the underworld. Daulerio admitted it’s “not going to get as much traffic as Demi Moore going to the hospital for whip-its, but that doesn’t mean it’s less valuable.”

It’s also true that Gawker may need a new trick, now that the traffic-whoring aggregation that put it on the map has become ubiquitous. Not that it doesn’t serve an important purpose, as Daulerio well knows. While Gawker’s growth has slowed in the past six months with unique visitors down 3 percent, Deadspin’s uniques have exploded by 22 percent.

Daulerio is also making a point by openly discussing the experiment, which he explained in a detailed post on the site. Whether it’s those inside-Gawker disclosures, leaked emails or publicly testing out new bloggers, readers are likely to see more of that transparency in the future.

“I like the fact that readers see exactly where we get some of our stuff from, and where some of these bigger news stories are generated from,” he said. “We should be a little more open in what our motivations are and not hide behind the fact that we’re Gawker.”


@adweekemma Emma Bazilian is Adweek's features editor.