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Dec. 11, 2017, 11:24 a.m.
Business Models

Former Gawker employees are crowdfunding to relaunch a Gawker.com that’s owned by a nonprofit and funded by readers

A Kickstarter campaign aims to raise $500,000 before January 8 to try to buy back and relaunch Gawker.com, which will be owned by a newly established nonprofit Gawker Foundation.

SaveGawker.com launched Monday in an effort to…well, save Gawker.com, and relaunch it as a member-supported news site.

The flagship Gawker.com became an orphan site after Univision bought all Gawker Media properties last summer — but didn’t include Gawker.com — and reunited the newly acquired group of sites under the name Gizmodo Media Group (which now also includes sites like The Root and The Onion.)

Former employees launched a Kickstarter campaign on Monday to buy and revive Gawker.com as a membership-funded site owned by the nonprofit The Gawker Foundation. The Foundation was formed on November 21 of this year. Discussions about the effort to somehow relaunch Gawker.com “started back in August and continued through the fall with over a dozen former employees and editors,” according to James Del, currently the chief revenue officer at Futurism and the former VP of programming at Gawker Media. Many of the former Gawker staffers involved in the effort are still employed elsewhere, so their names aren’t currently disclosed with this crowdfunding drive, but Gawker founding editor Elizabeth Spiers has committed to being on its board of directors. Cody Brown is also advising.

According to the Kickstarter, the newly formed Gawker Foundation aims to keep the entirety of the Gawker.com archives public, and restart the site with some of the old staff and some new writers, under a member-funded model. If relaunched, the new site won’t run advertising or have a paywall. The current goal to raise $500,000 by January 8, 2018, will give the effort behind the effort the “minimum amount needed to start a new publication and preserve the archives effectively,” Del told me via Twitter DMs. “I’ve been in digital publishing for 10 years and have a good understanding of the costs needed to run a lean site. We don’t know what kind of bids the estate will be getting so the more money we raise, the more competitive we can be at auction.”

If the Kickstarter fails or if the SaveGawker bid fails, a new site will still launch, under a different name.

The work on SaveGawker.com had been ongoing months before Peter Thiel’s lawyers caused some alarm last month by filing a motion in court that challenged Thiel’s exclusion from the bidding process for Gawker.com. Thiel, of course, is the guy who secretly bankrolled Hulk Hogan’s invasion of privacy lawsuit that ultimately led to Gawker Media’s bankruptcy, and who personally objected to specific Gawker.com stories. Whoever becomes the owner of Gawker.com would be free to delete stories.

I asked Del about the proposed nonprofit ownership structure. Would other potential nonprofit and foundation supporters feel uncomfortable something styled like the old Gawker?

“The nonprofit model serves two purposes…one, it forces us to use every dollar raised to fund the preservation and operation of the site, and two, it provides an advantageous legal structure in which no person ‘owns’ the site (and therefore no single person can be easily targeted by parties looking to ‘destroy’ the site),” he wrote. While additional foundation support would certainly be welcome, “the whole purpose of this is to create a Gawker that is beholden to no one except the readers. If foundations are wary to support it, then we hope the readers will be able to support it themselves.”

POSTED     Dec. 11, 2017, 11:24 a.m.
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