Why Nick Denton is good and/or evil

I can’t help it — I like Gawker founder Nick Denton. I realize that for some he is the blogosphere equivalent of Dr. Evil, but I just can’t help liking him anyway. It’s true that he seems to come up with sweatshop-style compensation methods just for the fun of it, and he also seems to take an inordinate amount of glee in shuttering blog titles at his Gawker empire, or selling them off when it’s least expected. Maybe that’s what I enjoy: the fact that he just seems to be having such a good time, even when he’s firing people and leaking his own memos.

The one that Silicon Alley Insider has — which plenty of other people seem to have as well — is about Gawker selling off (or giving away, as the case may be) several blogs, including Gridskipper (travel), Idolator (music) and Wonkette. One is going to join Gawker investor Lockhart Steele’s stable, another to Buzznet, and the third to Ken Layne. Wonkette, as Nick himself notes, is a former flagship title, which launched Ana Marie Cox to superstardom (she’s at Time magazine now), and so seems like an odd candidate for sale — but there you have it.

That’s the genius of Denton: give people contradictory quotes about the current health of the business (there’s a storm coming, but Gawker’s pageviews have climbed by almost 90 per cent to 221 million or so), shut down blogs here and there whenever it suits you, change the compensation method for your bloggers suddenly and without warning, and just generally create mayhem and confusion. Brilliant. For bonus points, read the back-and-forth in Valleywag’s comments between Nick and someone who is either Mike Arrington or pretending to be.


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