Report: Gamergate Cost Gawker ‘Seven Figures’

Associated Press

Gawker Media found itself at the center of a strange online movement, and it apparently cost the company “seven figures” in lost advertising revenue.

Capital’s Peter Sterne reported that the fallout from the controversy was addressed at a year-end all-hands company meeting on Wednesday afternoon after Gawker senior writer Sam Biddle posed a question to Gawker founder and CEO Nick Denton.

In October, Biddle, then with Gawker’s tech-focused blog Valleywag, mocked the “gamergate” movement, which purportedly focused on “ethics in gaming journalism” but quickly morphed into a confused and misogynistic campaign.

Biddle’s tweet prompted gamergate activists to pressure companies to withdraw advertisements on Gawker. In response, Mercedes-Benz briefly suspended its advertising on the site. Another sponsor, Adobe, also attempted to distance itself from Gawker.

From Sterne’s report:

During Wednesday’s all-hands meeting, according to two staffers present, Denton playfully referenced the controversy when Biddle asked a question.
Biddle asked how much the company was spending on its content management system Kinja, and Denton replied that it was about five times as much as his tweets had cost the company, leading to laughter from the audience.

Biddle apologized , and Gawker’s outgoing editorial director Joel Johnson expressed regret for the tweet. But those mea culpas sparked internal strife. Gawker editor-in-chief Max Read wrote a post objecting to the apologies, and other staff members were upset over Johnson’s handling of the situation.

Johnson circulated a memo to staff shortly after Biddle’s tweet, saying that he would consider the “need for an official policy about tweeting, including possibly determining that we still don’t need one.”

“But the fact that I’m sending this email should indicate the degree to which errant joke tweets have become a pain in the ass,” Johnson wrote.

Deadspin editor Tommy Craggs responded with an email saying he thought Johnson’s memo was “shitty” and that Biddle’s apology was “a really bad move for a company supposedly dedicated to the proposition that we put true things on the internet.”

Sterne reported that it was actually Denton who insisted on the apology “over objections from Johnson and Read.” At any rate, the furor over gamergate and the internal friction it caused was the impetus for Denton to reshuffle Gawker’s hierarchy. That, as Sterne put it, was a bigger repercussion than the effect on the company’s ad revenue.

Johnson is out as editorial director at the end of the month and, although Denton offered him a new non-editorial position, he appears to be gearing up to leave the company for a new job.

Denton announced in a memo Wednesday that he will step down as president and Gawker Media will now implement a seven-person management team with Craggs serving as executive editor.

Denton did not respond to TPM’s request for comment.