Gawker's Traffic Numbers Are Worse Than Anyone Anticipated


When Gawker launched an aggressive redesign back in early February, the tech blogs were waiting to see what would happen. How would readers respond? (The assumption was that the reaction would be negative -- readers tend to avoid change and reject it when it's forced on them -- but nobody knew just how negative.) Starting about one week later, writers flooded the Internet with posts about not just the reaction -- "Gawker really effed this up" -- but also the numbers. Quantcast found that Gawker's traffic was cut in half, TechCrunch reported; Gizmodo's numbers were almost as bad. Nick Denton, the network's overseer, stood by his design and insisted that the readers would return.

But they haven't. Now that the complaints have, for the most part, slowed to a trickle and the tech blogs have stopped looking into Gawker's traffic numbers, we decided to dig in a bit. What does the network's traffic look like now that two and a half months have passed? Turns out, according to Gawker's public statistics, things are much, much worse than was originally reported. Yes, the redesign cut traffic in half almost instantly, but instead of coming back, even more readers left the site behind.

Here, a graph we put together using the number of unique visitors to the homepages of five sites in the Gawker network -- Gawker, Gizmodo, Jezebel, io9 and Deadspin -- from November through today.* The April numbers are only for the month to-date, but it isn't hard to see, now that we're twenty days in, how many of these sites will need a big boost to even reach March's traffic.


What accounts for the steep drop in numbers? While there hasn't been a major news event in April to help traffic spike, it's not as though we're comparing March numbers to those from a particularly great month. As you can see in the chart, the number of unique visitors across each site held roughly steady between November and January.

(Update: Shortly after this story was posted, Nick Denton wrote in to dispute the numbers we used. He says that the site's internal tracker has been broken for two months and sent us statistics from Quantcast. "Those numbers [in this post] are total pageviews from all sources for all sites," he said, referencing his own data, available here. "We were doing about 100m a week. At the low-point, we dipped to 75m. We're now back at 93m.")

The last time I spoke to a member of Gawker's team, I was told that the site is built using Ajax (Javascript and XML) and, when users realize this and scroll through using keys (j/k) to move from one post to the next, Gawker's system doesn't register each of those posts as a new pageview. That certainly hurts, but it wouldn't affect the number of unique visitors, which is what Denton -- and most advertising executives -- is primarily concerned with. It's just another excuse.

Gawker backtracked rather quickly on the redesign, adding a button to switch the site back to a traditional blog format, which allows readers to scroll through post headlines and excerpts in reverse-chronological order. But by then it may have been too late.

*Correction: This post originally implied that the graph displays total unique visitors to each of the five Gawker Network sites represented. The chart shows unique visitors to the homepage of each site, according to Gawker's internal statistics.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

In a series of candid video interviews, women talk about self-image, self-judgment, and what it means to love their bodies

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.


Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.


Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.


The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air



More in Technology

Just In