Foot-Fetish Video Featuring Coach’s Wife, Nasty Reply to Letter to Football Team Drive Gawker, Deadspin in December

Gawker Media founder Nick Denton was pleased with December’s results at his network of sites, particularly flagship site Gawker and sports destination Deadspin, which were largely driven by two scoops — the foot fetish video that featured the wife of New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan, and a hysterical reply on Cleveland Browns letterhead to a letter to the football club complaining about paper airplanes. From Denton’s memo to staff, via Romenesko Memos:

I’d hoped to begin the year with the rousing plan for the new layout. But that’s been held back to the end of the month. So I’ll save the big harangue.

The median growth from December 2009 to last month was 45 percent. Deeply impressive! But the two sites that stood out were Deadspin and Gawker, up 91 percent and 85 percent, respectively. What marked them out? Scoops. This month’s highlights: the foot fetishist and this wonderfully rude email to a whiny fan.

Anything that works in the current design will work even better in the new layout. Scoops will get even stronger play in the splash on the front page. Headlines will need to stand alone, without the explanatory support of a lede. And stories with powerful (640×360) images or video will have so much better chance of breaking out. So, just like now — but more so.

Oh, and cut out the last of the pseudo-news, whether it’s boring casting developments or the latest figures from the U.K. market. They’ll never get the splash treatment. And, if they do somehow slip through, I’ll go nuts.