Gawker Makes Leadership Changes

gawkerlogoNick Denton has announced some major changes to the leadership structure at Gawker Media.

Instead of Denton having all the oversight, a collective of seven managing partners (including Denton) “will consult on major matters such as tech investments and the reassignment of department heads,” according to a memo.

The partners include the following:

  • Tommy Craggs, executive editor
  • Heather Dietrick, president
  • Andrew Gorenstein, president of Gawker advertising
  • Scott Kidder, COO
  • Erin Pettigrew, chief strategy officer
  • Tom Plunkett, CTO
  • Denton, CEO

If you’re in the mood to read Denton’s extremely long note about these changes, it’s below. After you’re finished, maybe try to get out more?

2015: Back to blogging

“I have some important news.” Usually, that’s how I start a conversation with someone who is being promoted, or fired. This time, that conversation is about me: my solo leadership of this company, and the collective management that is going to replace it.

Here are the highlights: I am announcing the formation of a managing partnership of seven people which will make key decisions together. Among them, Heather Dietrick will take over my position as President. Having helped lift gross commerce revenues to $60m, Erin Pettigrew will head Strategy, including responsibility for the Kinja software product. Deadspin’s Tommy Craggs is the new Executive Editor over all eight flagship titles. And we will return to our mission: more linebackers with fictional dying girlfriends; less pandering to the Facebook masses. In 2015, Gawker will be the very best version of itself; I will be the best version of myself. We will be bloggers again.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not stepping down as CEO. And department heads will continue to report into me. I am proud of my management track record of the last decade. I am proud of what we have made together.

Gawker Media is the only truly independent media company to achieve lift-off on the web. Even this year, not one of our best for stories, our U.S. monthly audience has grown healthily, up a fifth, a growth rate that many media companies would be thrilled with. We have plenty of momentum.

Our business became profitable without venture or corporate capital. Our writing style has permeated the English-writing online world. Manti Te’o and Rob Ford: those scoops are of legend, and they are ours. Our blogs are read by 1 in 3 of those readers that tackier media companies would lump together as millennials, a demographic to be traded by advertisers, capitalists and dealmakers. By contrast, we think of them as individuals with interests as unpredictable as our own. We are beholden to no one. That is a precious thing.

That independence is guaranteed by me. I am the largest shareholder in the company. I choose to stay, and I believe we can be better. I am excited for 2015. I believe you still need me, to set a broad direction, and shake the company up if it’s drifting (but to leave it alone when it’s humming).

We are transparent by virtue of what we do, opinionated journalism. Of course this memo will be leaked, and it will likely cause us some problems. The truth hurts. And though most of the criticism is self-criticism, I’m sure I’ve said something that will offend, inadvertently. But the needs of open internal communication trump external messaging and internal quiet. I’d rather be slightly embarrassed, and open with you. By our natures, we can’t stay quiet.

The problems I’m going to identify are common. Excellence in software development is elusive; no online publisher has yet succeeded in transforming itself into a platform. As a company grows — Gawker is approaching 300 employees in New York, Budapest and around the globe — an upgrade of management is inevitable. The thing that marks us out from more tightly controlled corporations: we’re able to recognize our handicaps, and address them. This organization is more than ever designed for continuous improvement.

I feel free to show vulnerability here because of my overwhelming confidence in our company’s underlying strength and mission. Yesterday’s sensational emails between the head of Sony and Scott Rudin: that’s how good our editorial can be every day. We will be the first online media company to create its own technology, rather than be reduced to a content provider subject to someone else’s algorithm. And our Sales team is the best in the business, defying market trends to lift up revenue per page for the third year in a row.

Our future opportunity — to host the most lively and informative conversation on the web — is too great to fumble. Boldness is required not just of me, but of the organization. And the excellence of our execution is directly related to the honesty of internal communications.

This memo is long. If you’re in a hurry for the full set of names and promotions, you can skip ahead to the bullet points. But there’s a lot to go through. The organization has long made most big changes at the end of the year, to start the new one with maximum energy and a clean slate. Better to get changes out the way in one fell swoop. (And yes, this will wrap up the swoop for 2015.)