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End of a snarky era: Gawker shuts down Valleywag

Posted by comtech3 on November 13, 2008

November 12, 2008 6:05 PM PST

Posted by Caroline McCarthy

On the same day that he published a detailed missive about his dire predictions for the online ad market, Gawker Media overlord Nick Denton made public his decision to shut down Valleywag, the blog network’s Silicon Valley gossip title. Valleywag was launched early in 2006.

Valleywag editor Owen Thomas will have his job folded into a column on the Gawker.com flagship title, a gossip blog focused primarily on the New York media industry.

A recession seems like a great time to be running a gossip blog about the tech business, given all the juicy photos of sad, laid-off employees and rumors of badly-behaved CEOs mismanaging their companies that inevitably fly around. But the reason for Valleywag’s shutdown was Denton’s notoriously doom-and-gloom vision of the future–Internet ad spending will decline a full 40 percent, he predicts–and Valleywag was one of the company’s underperforming titles.

It was a tough sell for advertisers, given its niche audience, and many tech companies would be hesitant to advertise on a publication dedicated to ridiculing tech companies. And then there was the fact that you just can’t turn the average Valley exec or VC into a Perez Hilton-style celebrity. The likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel, and Elon Musk simply don’t add up to Britney Spears-like followings.

Reactions in the tech community will probably be mixed. Valleywag is mean, to be sure, but it can also be hilarious, and writers Owen Thomas and Paul Boutin were tech-press regulars long before their Gawker gigs.

Denton’s handling of Gawker has been frugal, continually consolidating resources toward the blogs that were pulling in traffic and ad dollars and not hesitating to shut down the underperformers. In April, Gawker Media sold off three of its smallest blogs, and Denton has now announced that another, Consumerist, is on the block.

Early in October, Denton orchestrated a personnel shuffling that saw 14 percent of the company’s editorial staff laid off but new hires made at some of the most successful titles like gadget blog Gizmodo and feminist chronicle Jezebel.

Also on Wednesday, AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka reporter that Gawker Media managing editor Noah Robischon was leaving for Fast Company.

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