Refreshing candor

Refreshing candor
: If only Martha had been this honest.

Nick Denton confesses today:

I was, as they say back home, royally shafted. That’s just like shafted, only worse. For those of you who doesn’t follow every navel-gazing twist and turn of the blog world, Jason Calacanis of Weblogs Inc., a rival, poached one of Gawker Media’s writers, Pete Rojas of Gizmodo.

Sure, we recovered quickly. Joel Johnson, who was going to write another upcoming site, stepped in. And traffic has rebounded, though those readers may simply be enthralled by the spectacle of an online car crash happening in real time.

But the fact remains that I was caught unawares. I was in Brazil, my mind on other things. Before Pete gave his notice, he and Calacanis already had a slick copycat site — Engadget — ready to go. The shafting will be complete, today, with an artfully-placed item in New York Magazine, in which Calacanis boasts of his plans for 500 blogs. Round One to Calacanis. On to Round Two.

Is there any broader meaning to all this? Well, I have just one tentative conclusion. Blogs are likely to be better for readers than for capitalists….

  • So Calacanis is into quantity. Okay…
    Good stuff from Denton, though. Are he and Rojas on good terms? Would you be less inclined to hire someone who’d done what Rojas did?

  • jon h

    This is perhaps a wakeup call to guys like Denton to pay their writers more.
    (Gawker without Spiers, imho, is a shadow of its former self. On the other hand, Spiers could’ve been the next Liz Smith if she’d stayed, and starved a little longer.)
    This’d be more fun to watch if Calacanis were less of an asshole. And let’s just watch and see how long before he kow-tows to real and potential advertisers.

  • K. S.

    It’s not clear to me why Denton thinks he was the victim of unfair play – he acknowledges that Rojas received a better offer from Calacanis, and that Rojas gave due notice to Gizmodo.
    As the tech economy becomes more and more friction-free, business people are going to have to recognize the value provided by top technical and creative staff and reward it appropriately (and I write this as an irate techie who was hired to a senior position by a know-nothing CEO who kept me just long enough to steal my intellectual property).
    It’s also interesting that Denton writes “While I love the medium, I’ve always been skeptical about the value of blogs as businesses”. Not long ago he said he was a “big believer in online media” and their business potential.

  • There’s nothing I love reading about more than bidding wars over somebody who’s doing what most of us are doing for free. (Or are actually paying for, when you consider the precious, non-refundable hours of our lives.) But I’m probably just bitter…

  • Damn. Kudos to Nick for laying it all out.
    Lessons? I’d add only this: Marx is grinning in his grave; thanks to Moore’s law and the Internet, writers now can own the means of production that, previously, only publishers could afford.
    The only monopoly left in media is the individual’s ownership of his or her own talent. With a strong voice and loyal audience, Rojas will be working for himself and not Calacanis soon enough.

  • Nick plays down the business of blogs for one reason: to pay people less. Trust me, Nick is not doing blogs just for the fun of it, or because he loves the medium. He is hiring people, putting up tons of google ad words, and spending money on expensive logos for a reason: he wants to make money. If he just wanted to do blogs for fun he would post to his personal blog and not be doing highly targeted, highly- profitable (read: porn and gadget) verticals.
    That being said, there is nothing wrong with making this into a business. Who wouldn’t want to work from home blogging and make a living?! Nick is a great businessman and he is going to be very, very successful and I commend him, even if we have different styles.

  • As someone making a partial living from blogging (thank you Google AdWords), I’m curious whether the number of folks entering spaces divides eyeballs or creates more overall value. I’m usually of the mind that more competition of the right kind adds readership because we’re all working to create interesting content that people find more compelling to read. Thus if Jason and I both have Wi-Fi blogs, we almost certainly will have different takes on the subject, and that could provoke more interest from people in the space — unless several other blogs and we so exhaustively cover it that we wear people out. Which seems unlikely. Blogs command but don’t demand attention, so someone stops reading before they get burned out. Now, no blogger stops writing before they get burned out!