BDG shutters Gawker 2.0: “We have to prioritize our better monetized sites”

The new Gawker survived just about a year and a half before Bryan Goldberg, the CEO of BDG, announced on Wednesday that it will be shut down — er, it’s “suspending operations” — amid broader layoffs of 8% of the company’s staff.

“We are proud of the site that Leah [Finnegan] and her team built,” Goldberg wrote in an email to employees that was tweeted by Semafor’s Max Tani. “Gawker published a lot of brilliant pieces in these nearly two years. But in this new reality, we have to prioritize our better monetized sites.”

In an email to employees, Bustle Digital Group CEO Bryan Goldberg announces the company is laying off 8% of staff and “suspending operations” at Gawker

— Max Tani (@maxwelltani) February 1, 2023

Goldberg, who in addition to BDG owns Napoleon’s hat, told Axios’s Sara Fischer on Wednesday that Gawker was “essentially an early-stage startup within our company” and “now just isn’t the moment to push millions of dollars into a pre-monetization product.” But the brand is really old in internet years. The original Gawker Media was founded in 2002 and filed for bankruptcy in 2016 following the sex tape lawsuit that awarded Terry Gene Bollea (a.k.a Hulk Hogan) $140 million in damages. (The lawsuit was bankrolled at least in part by billionaire Peter Thiel; Bollea and Gawker Media ultimately settled for $31 million.) That year, Univision acquired all the Gawker Media brands except for Gawker (Deadspin, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Kotaku, Jalopnik, and Jezebel); they were later sold to equity firm Great Hill Partners.

Goldberg’s BDG acquired Gawker’s archives and social media accounts for $1.35 million in 2018. (He spent $1.4 million on the hat.) The site relaunched, after a couple false starts, in 2021 under Leah Finnegan, who had been a features editor at the original Gawker.

BDG’s remaining brands include Bustle, Mic, Nylon, Romper, and Elite Daily, among others. In the past couple years, it has shut down The Outline and Input. I asked the company where the other layoffs this week are taking place, and will update this post if I hear back.

Well, after an incredible 1.5 years, BDG has decided it is done with Gawker 2.0. Can’t say enough about how proud I am of the site and all the brilliant people who worked to create it, and what a staggering shame this is. I had an absolute blast, and I love you.

— Leah Finnegan (@leahfinnegan) February 1, 2023

people asked me about gawker to get whatever “real” gossip on what it was like they would be disappointed when i’d say “it’s the best job i’ve ever had and i get to work with people i love very deeply” but that was the truth…only job where i truly felt like myself

— sarah hagi (@KindaHagi) February 1, 2023

RIP to working the dumbest most fun job with some of the funniest girls and one guy in the game, all for less money than bryan goldberg spent on napoleons hat

— tarpley (@tarpleyhitt) February 1, 2023

RIP to the last place i could’ve pitched “I ate an entire weed lollipop in a day, here’s what happened” if i were white

— ashley ray (@theashleyray) February 1, 2023

Is the Defector model really the only way to do a site like this? It’s clear that a voicey, attitudey, non-bootlicky site can’t survive under One Of Today’s Leading Global Media Companies With A Portfolio Of Distinct Digital And Experiential Brands That Are Shaping Culture

— Eric Harvey (@ericdharvey) February 1, 2023

It was never anyone’s must-read. Old Gawker not only would’ve had a field day with George Santos, Anna Delvey, Hilaria Baldwin, etc. but, for better or for worse, it would’ve been breaking the news on them. Now that stuff primarily happens in Twitter threads from randos.

— caroline mccarthy (@caro) February 1, 2023

If you feel like you’re just tweeting into the void and getting minimal replies of any kind, the corpse of @gawker has >500k followers. Here are some interaction numbers from the past couple days

— The Ball Is Orange (@theballisorange) February 1, 2023

if you want to make something valuable and lasting in this world then prepare to do it yourself entirely because the people who hire you are dumber than you and less talented which is why they are in the business of allocating dollars instead of doing stuff

— noah kulwin (@nkulw) February 1, 2023

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