Nick Denton’s Change of Heart

Gawker Media’s Nick Denton has been doing some soul-searching.

In the memo to his staff  that’s been making the web rounds, he wrote:

Relentless and cynical traffic-trawling is bad for the soul. Yes, I just said that.

Irony indeed. Denton, who many could argue built a business on “traffic-trawling,” is now calling for a mix of contributors who use mass-traffic generators like “dong shots” and others who appeal “to a smaller and more influential set of readers.”

But let’s be clear, Denton, hasn’t completely lost touch with his reality:

Some people will note I’ve said little about individual traffic numbers. Don’t relax just yet: the numbers remain important.

If the site as a whole is growing in both audience and reputation, we can afford for some writers to take time off from the news grind to work on a story or opinion piece that will transform the debate or win the internet.

That’s the spirit!

One thing that hasn’t changed for Denton: Gawker Media is awesome. The memo, included after the jump, reads like a well-written press release for the company. Overpraise is not bad for the soul.

Our sites have assembled the strongest collection of journalistic talent on the web today. Sure, we know how to play the web game like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post. We measure. We hone headlines. We sell stories. Sometimes we oversell. But — and this marks us out — we believe that the best web content optimization strategy is something as old as journalism itself: the shocking truth and the authentic opinion.

We’ll spill the truths that others gloss over to protect their access to sources or to conform to political correctness.

Glad that’s settled. Read on if you want to know how Gawker plans to accomplish all this good-for-the-soul coverage.

The Memo

“For most things in life, the range between best and average is 30% or so. The best airplane flight, the best meal, they may be 30% better than your average one. What I saw with Woz was somebody who was fifty times better than the average engineer. He could have meetings in his head. The Mac team was an attempt to build a whole team like that, A players. People said they wouldn’t get along, they’d hate working with each other. But I realized that A players like to work with A players, they just didn’t like working with C players. At Pixar, it was a whole company of A players.”

Sorry, yeah, that’s from the most quoted man of 2011, Steve Jobs. And it’s conventional wisdom in Silicon Valley. But I’ve got to confess: the Apple boss’ homily inspired a more rigorous than usual review of editorial at the end of the year. Superior writers, videographers and other content makers want to work with their own kind and for their own kind.

That’s you, in case you didn’t realize. Look at the esprit de corps of Deadspin under AJ. It’s the golden team of sports journalism. Look at the obscene array of talent at Gawker right now. Our sites have assembled the strongest collection of journalistic talent on the web today. Sure, we know how to play the web game like Buzzfeed and Huffington Post. We measure. We hone headlines. We sell stories. Sometimes we oversell. But — and this marks us out — we believe that the best web content optimization strategy is something as old as journalism itself: the shocking truth and the authentic opinion.

We’ll spill the truths that others gloss over to protect their access to sources or to conform to political correctness. Original thought (or Campfire groupmind) is muffled less. Think of Matt Buchanan’s stoned Friday evening truth bomb or Deadspin’s reporting of the Penn State scandal (more 2011 scoops at the end of this memo). There’s a new catchline on the media kit: Whatever we think. Whatever we know. That’s what we’ll publish. And that willingness defines not just our pitch to advertisers but our editorial mission.