On Wonkette and the rest of Gawker media…

01/24/2004

So Nick Denton’s Gawker media has released its latest offspring into the world, and so far (particularly after the enormous success of fleshbot) it doesn’t look like much of a contender. Wonkette has been described as Gawker for DC (by Glenn Reynolds, no less), but so far she’s evidenced little of the ready wit and weblog-savvy of that rather superior organ’s array of editorial talent. Wonkette’s Ana Marie Cox writes like a weblog-naif – she’s overly fascinated by the speed of the publishing and the novelty of not having an editor (and too involved in the immediacy of her voice over the quality of the material she’s referencing) to make the site a really compelling read. I’ve no doubt all this will change of course – the novelty of writing for a weblog can fade over time. But in the meantime: For God’s sake, calm down before you do yourself a mischief!

Gawker media is in my mind a lot at the moment, for a whole range of reasons. First and foremost, I’ve got a paper that I should be writing for an upcoming conference on e-publishing at the London Book Fair. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about writing about Nick’s model of nanopublishing and the way in which these small ventures can create grass-roots, highly-targetted brands – brands which could be floated off into larger ventures, used as branded chunks (syndicated columns perhaps) within larger publications or simply used to colonise the brain-space of people who feel disenfranchised by the large and inhuman face of large-scale media. In particular I want to talk about that alternative model of online publishing – in which large teams of individuals are brought in to run online presences / support sites for commercial magazines or other large media presences at tremendous expense – expense which evidently might simply not be necessary.

But of course the problem with Nick’s nano-publishing model (and he problem with my proposed paean to it) is that it doesn’t really seem to make anyone that much money and that perhaps as a direct consequence, no one else seems to want to do it. I mean, short of business ignorance (which we shouldn’t dismiss as a likely proposition) what other reasons could there be for the lack of competition to Gawker Media? I mean, it’s established a model that’s far from hard to replicate if you have a little money lying around and a certain amount of savvy. And it’s even generated a core concept (local savvy correspondents filtering and condensing the regional media down to thick paste that is as much about myth-making the place as it is purporting to give back-stage access into what’s really going on) that’s eminently replicable to every decent-sized on the planet. I mean, we can all imagine a London equivalent, a Tokyo equivalent or a Sydney equivalent – we can all see the possibilities in a version of this model for Rome, Paris, Edinburgh and Barcelona. Which leads me to wonder – where are they?

I have my theories, of course. Do you have any?