5 Takeaways from Nick Denton's Must-Read Reflections on Internet Media

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As the founder of Gawker, Nick Denton may occasionally be reviled, but the man has his fingers on the pulse of the Internet. His clear thinking and willingness to go where the (traffic, revenue) data lead him make him one of my favorite thinkers about our business. I may not always agree with him, but he brings data to what is often a words-only fight about the future of media.

He's got a new post up about a big Gawker redesign, which is coming soon. It's more than an explanation of a redesign, though, it's actually a mini vision statement about where Denton sees his organization (and media in general) heading. Here's my quick gloss:

  • Internet media is a hits-based business. Denton attributes his site's increasing traffic to the buzz and visitors resulting from the Gawker network's big scoops. "One law of media competition applies as strongly to web properties as it did to their predecessors: scoops drive audience growth."
  • Drudge be damned, visuals matter on the web. The Gawker sites are being redesigned to require an excellent, large (640x360) visual to drive every post. "Half of the top 100 stories (ranked by new visitors) are already built around video, slideshows or other imagery... the presumption in the new layout is that every single substantial item will be built around imagery: a video, a gallery, a striking image or, if the words are strong enough, a text graphic."
  • Make your stories into events. This can be read in a couple of different ways. First, publicize the entrance of new information into the world ("scoops") as you would an event. Remember: "aggressive news-mongering." Second, Gawker is moving some content onto a "programming grid" -- finding the right times to give people the kind of content they want. Then, they are selling those moments! In a sense, they are creating ad space scarcity because there's only so much time. 
  • While aggregation is necessary, it's not enough. "We learned our lesson: aggressive news-mongering trumps satirical blogging." On the other hand, you gotta do some aggregation to fill out a site.
  • Video's time is now. Denton's been skeptical of video because it cost a lot (of time and money) to produce it. But, he says, now is the time for video for two reasons. One, there's money there: advertisers want to run video spots. Two, content producers (like myself) have figured out more efficient ways of creating moving images. Here's Denton's list: "And we ourselves have learned more efficient techniques: curating video already posted up to Youtube or Vimeo, for instance; illustrating an app or video game with a quick screencast; creating a video slideshow out of high-definition images and text overlay; or making mashups from TV."
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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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