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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The people at Gawker don't seem to like the world they've built

There’s a big to-do at the U.S. website Gawker over a story being withdrawn, apparently in order to placate advertisers.

A number of senior people have noisily resigned, claiming the independence of editorial has been fatally undermined. 

The new generation of digital journalists working in U.S. media don’t stop at giving themselves the rather inflated job titles favoured by their eyeshade-wearing predecessors; they also seem to think they can hold the same line between “church and state” once so dear to Time magazine and the New York Times.

But that was in the days when news media was a two-revenue stream business. The old position wasn't a principled stand - it was just common sense. Some of the money came from advertisers; the rest came from readers. The job of the editor was to hold the line between the two streams. You couldn’t lean too far in the direction of one for fear of making the other, to use one of the most popular weasel words in the contemporary lexicon, uncomfortable.

If on the other hand you’re an internet media business like Gawker (where readers don’t pay) you only have one revenue stream. That’s the advertiser. Or sponsor or commercial partner or whatever you call them. In this new dispensation, where the advertising is the only source of cash, the advertising will always win. A child could tell you that.

This is the new Jerusalem the Gawker people eagerly built. Now they’ve got it, they don’t seem to like it.