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Bustle Digital Group Shuts Down Gawker…Again

Just 18 months after the celebrity gossip site’s relaunch

Parent company Bustle Digital Group is shutting down pop-culture and celebrity gossip site Gawker, just 18 months after relaunching it. BDG is also laying off 8% of its staff across the company, according to Variety. Gawker’s menu reveals some of its top categories: news, politics, celebrity, culture, media, money, tech, Chrissy Teigen, gossip, features, NASA, Ask a ****-Up, and Dogs.

Some of Gawker’s most recent stories include the following:

  • “Andrea Riseborough Guilty of Being a Good Actor with Friends Who Appreciate Her”
  • “Surprising No One, George Santos is a Disney Adult”
  • “Oi, Fancy a Quickie, Miss? Kate Middleton Got Wolf-Whistled in Leeds”
  • “Where Have All the Monkeys Gone?””

Gawker editor-in-chief Leah Finnegan, who led Gawker’s comeback, made the announcement on Twitter on February 1, 2023.

The following day Finnegan said she was going to focus on being a stay-at-home dog mom for a while. The company’s last tweet was on February 1 about the best and worst media TikTok accounts, and there is no announcement about the shuttering of Gawker. Gawker’s Twitter account has 543.8K followers.

Employees were notified by an internal memo, Variety reports.

“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. It’s a business decision, and one that, reluctantly, must be made,” said BDG chief Bryan Goldberg.

In addition to Gawker, BDG owns 11 brands that focus on lifestyle, parenting, culture and innovation, and prestige. Publications include Bustle, Nylon, W, Scary Mommy, The Zoe Report, Romper, Mic, Elite Daily, and others. BDG says they reach the largest millennial and Gen Z audience in the U.S.

Copyright © 2023 Authority Media Network, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is prohibited.

WGAE speaks out

Though Gawker didn’t specify how many employees would be affected, the Writers Guild of America East said about 40 union members at Gawker would be laid off as a result of the gossip site’s shuttering.

“The WGAE is appalled by BDG’s decision to lay off nearly 40 of our unit members. This is the third round of layoffs over the last six months that have effectively led to halving the original unit from 200 workers to just above 100 workers. Today’s latest round of layoffs, and the closure of Gawker, came after more than two years of attempting to bargain a first contract with BDG, and on the heels of more recent bargaining dates being outright canceled by the Company,” the WGAE said in a statement published by The Hollywood Reporter. 

WGAE said Gawker’s part-time staff were paid below industry standard and did not receive any benefits except accrued sick time.

“WGAE demands to bargain with BDG over this decision, and over the effects of the layoffs — something the company is obligated to do under federal labor law,” said WGAE.

Gawker history

Journalist Nick Denton founded Gawker in 2002. The digital news site later expanded to become Gawker Media, which ran other online news sites Deadspin, Gizmodo and Kotaku. In 2016, however, the company lost a privacy lawsuit brought by Hulk Hogan and that was funded by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. Denton left the company, and shut down. In 2018, Bryan Goldberg, CEO of BDG, purchased the Gawker name at a bankruptcy auction for $1.35 million, reports The New York Times.

Goldberg’s original plan was to relaunch the gossip site in 2019, but he later changed the plan and laid off staff who had been hired to help with the reboot, Variety says. BDG relaunched Gawker in July 2021 under the leadership of Leah Finnegan, a former executive editor at The Outline. Finnegan had previously been an editor for Gawker and for The New York Times.

“The current laws of civility mean that no, it can’t be exactly what it once was, but we strive to honor the past and embrace the present,” said Finnegan when the site relaunched.

Insider Take

Tis the season for restructuring, layoffs and shuttering products and services. Gawker is the latest casualty. Based on Goldberg’s memo to employees, it appears that Gawker is not sufficiently monetized. Without subscription revenue, Gawker is relying on advertising revenue which has been difficult to come by in the last year or so, as advertisers pull back on marketing spend. We sense that Goldberg isn’t showing all his cards though. In addition to shutting down Gawker, BDG is also laying off staff companywide, which means BDG is cutting costs. Gawker’s demise is probably just one aspect of BDG’s strategy in these economically vulnerable times.

Copyright © 2023 Authority Media Network, LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is prohibited.

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