Gawker Sparks Furor With O’Donnell Post, Pulls Ads

Details of Christine O’Donnell’s lack of discretion — and grooming — fueled a traffic explosion for Gawker. But the gossip-driven site isn’t likely to see much of a financial benefit, as it preemptively yanked all advertising from the racy O’Donnell piece.

According to sales chief Chris Batty, when Gawker Media knows it has a bombshell story — like Deadspin’s recent Brett Farve penis-revealing piece — it has become standard practice to remove all advertising ahead of time to avoid screaming calls from marketers.

“It’s an easy financial decision, and it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “Even if a brand is risk-loving, it doesn’t mean they are interested in being associated with this controversy.”

Controversy is putting it mildly. The item on Gawker, “I Had a One-Night Stand With Christine O’Donnell,” paints the abstinence-preaching Delaware senatorial candidate as a lusty, cradle-robbing party girl. Even brands that know what they are getting into by advertising on the always-edgy Gawker are unlikely to touch that one — even if the article has generated 700,000 views alone in roughly 24 hours.

“There are certain advertisers that are willing to run in risky areas,” said one buyer. “But this is like the perfect storm of controversy. You have politics, gender issues, privacy issues. This was a really smart move for Gawker to pull its ads down.”

Advertisers are still running on other sections of Gawker, including a big campaign from AMC for its new series The Walking Dead. But even putting the O’Donnell firestorm aside, there would be little benefit to any of Gawker’s 100-plus advertisers to ride the O’Donnell traffic wave, since many brands don’t want to exhaust all of their inventory in one or two days.

“This is not going to solve any inventory issues,” Batty said. “We’ve just gotten a lot smarter about handling these things over the last couple of years.”