Whitney Jefferson grew up in rural Connecticut. In a town with only 4,000 people she had a choice: promiscuity or the loving arms of media culture. She would masquerade as a "late bloomer," A teen that couldn't get enough of message boards, geocities, yahoo pager, and the emo sensation that was rockingthescene.com.
Here are snapshots of the world's biggest blog titles—as they are now and as they were at launch. Here's Gawker from 2003 when the gossip site was edited by Elizabeth Spiers—and from yesterday. Less change than one might expect: the logo has shrunk because the site has less need to trumpet its arrival; the ad is real rather than a placeholder; the testimonials and blogroll have gone from the sidebar to be replaced by data about pageviews and comments; the skyline of top stories is new; and the site is rather more visual than it was. But the ancestry is unmistakeable.
Never in the last decade has there been more workplace gossip to leak than now. But-for the same economic reasons-everybody's more paranoid than ever that the boss' IT agents are snooping. Some Gawker tipsters are reluctant to send email from work computers. So we're opening a telephone tipline. Dial *67 to obscure the caller ID and then
646-214-8138 646-470-GAWK (646-470-4295) (this phone number changed in April, 2011) to leave Gawker's editors a voicemail. For the rules, read on.
Gawker has had a reasonably friendly rivalry with Bruce Wasserstein's New York magazine. At least three former editors of this site—Elizabeth Spiers, Jesse Oxfeld and Jessica Coen—have found refuge there after their sentence in the blogging mines. This history makes the latest audience numbers from Compete.com particularly satisfying. In September, gawker.com alone—not including any sibling sites—drew level with New York's nymag.com.
The publication of a relatively juicy interview with Jennifer Lopez—rejected by an unnamed fashion magazine—reminds us that magazine articles are often dropped not because they're bad but because they're good. Or—more often—simply because they've been overtaken by events or clash with some other article or because an insecure editor has over-commissioned. (Tina Brown, who published Kevin Sessums' J-Lo profile on her new Daily Beast website, was notorious for assigning three times the articles she ran.) Anyway, here's an alternative for journalists who've spent weeks slaving on an article only to see it spiked: Gawker's unspiked files.
You might notice a small change to the design of this page: the 'skyline' array of top stories is now bigger and more easily clickable. With Gawker publishing up to 70 items a day, stories drop pretty rapidly off the page. So we're highlighting the day's top news more obviously than before for those readers who might only check the site once a day. (Some people have jobs which demand concentration.) When there's an ad at the right, four editor's picks will show; when there's no ad, six top stories. If you spot any glitches, email me.
No celebrity deaths last month. But exhaustive coverage of the Eliot Spitzer's call-girl scandal helped boost pageviews in March. (A story that salacious is unlikely to be repeated in April but, then again, nobody expected New York's self-righteous Governor to blow up quite so spectacularly.) Anecdotally, Gawker has added readers outside New York, which is what one would expect: the site's media and pop culture coverage has been more national in its appeal. Pageviews in March, at 18.4m were 127% above the level of last December. Unique visitors for the month were 2.7m, compared with an audience of 1.2m in December. Portfolio's oft-mistaken Felix Salmon, who bet the site wouldn't regain its 2007 levels, took Lockhart Steele to a very nice lunch at Lure.
Time, belatedly, to update the Gawker masthead: Ryan Tate and Hamilton Nolan, bylines you've seen for the last few weeks, are joining the team. (Ryan is pictured below, and Hamilton above.) Ryan, who is based on the West Coast, will cover the overnight shift. He was a reporter for the boring San Francisco Business Times, but he has a wicked side: Ryan used to comment under the pen-name "Sid Hudgens", which is how he came to my attention. Suedehead Hamilton Nolan, formerly with PR Week, is now Gawker's advertising and public relations reporter. The publicists are already trembling. One departure: Maggie Shnayerson, whose coverage of the Viacom freelancer revolt put Gawker in an unusual role, instigator of one of the most successful labor campaigns of recent years, according to the The Nation. Positions still open include nightlife and media reporters. Email me.