Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Gawker Media Focuses On Uniques As Key Metric

Posted by Tom Foremski - January 5, 2010

Gawker Media, founded by former Financial Times journalist Nick Denton, is an interesting organization to watch because it is one of the oldest of the new media companies, and the most successful.

The New York based publisher of 8 news related web sites, Gawker has maintained strong growth while refusing to sell out to larger media organizations.

It's an interesting company to watch because it is a barometer on the health of online publishing. And it also acts as an example to other publishers in how they might run their business -- especially in motivating their staff.

Nick Denton often changes the terms of the bonuses paid to staff writers and editors. Today he made a significant change: instead of rewarding writers based on exceeding goals for the number of pageviews, they must beat goals set for gains in monthly unique visitors.

This means they must grow their publications beyond his growth goal. According to an internal memo received by The Awl:

The target for the first three months of this year is 1.06m. If the site were to hit 1.2m, that would represent 13% over the target. Writers and editors would receive an average of about 13% bonus in addition to their salary or fees.

This is a smart move because it will help attract advertisers. If Gawker is able to grow its monthly unique readers, advertisers will essentially get a discount on their advertising. They will be buying ad space at the current price but essentially be getting a much better deal, because they will get the growth in readers for free.

In some ways this could be viewed as an advertising discount but one that doesn't require Gawker to cut its ad prices. Plus it can charge more the next time an ad contract is negotiated.

Of course, this does presume that there are many new readers to be had, that there are lots more readers that aren't already familiar with Gawker sites. This might be a bit of a stretch.

For the writers, to earn their bonus would require them to do more than they do now--which is to cater to a loyal readership familiar with the Gawker style of writing and attitude. Writers would be tempted to change their writing, to do things differently in order to attract new readers.

The risk is that any changes could turn-off Gawker's current readership before a new, and larger readership is established. It takes a long time to build a trusted relationship with readers, it takes far less time to ruin one.

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Please see:

Gawker Media Celebrates Record Traffic, Moving Beyond Pageviews

MediaWatch: Nick Denton - The Micropublishing Dream Is Dead


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