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Nov. 1, 2019, 12:10 p.m.
LINK: www.theringer.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   November 1, 2019

It was just on Tuesday that G/O Media editorial director Paul Maidment told the staff of Deadspin to stick to sports and sports only. From there, the end was quick. Interim editor-in-chief Barry Petchesky was fired:

By Friday, Deadspin’s former editor-in-chief Megan Greenwell tweeted that the site no longer employed a single writer or editor.

G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller apparently couldn’t resist one last dig/attempt to turn the positive sentiment back toward him.

With all of this going on, there have been a number of good (if highly depressing) think pieces to read on Deadspin’s demise. Here are some to check out this weekend:

Drew Magary, “This is how it’s gonna work”:

But, like Gregg Williams’ coaching career, the spirit of Deadspin strangely cannot be killed. People bitched X PERSON RUINED DEADSPIN! nearly as many times as they’ve bitched about SNL being past its prime, and they were always wrong. And even if Deadspin.com itself gets butchered and then made over as Bleacher Report circa 2010, I’m gonna bring its vintage spirit with me wherever I end up, just as other Deadspin alums will take that spirit, and have taken it, with them anywhere THEY go. It lives on with Marchman at Vice, and with Puja at Pitchfork, and with Adler at The Athletic, and with my former colleagues at Sports Illustrated (Rohan, Emma, Sam, Dickey): the place that once birthed that spirit within generations prior, only to be ravaged by a separate but not terribly different band of white collar predators.

Ben Mathis-Lilley, “Let’s all stop mindlessly clicking and sharing zombie links” (Slate):

The truly messed-up thing about this is not that a business would try to cut costs and make money in a destructive way: It’s that it can work, because people keep reading the articles. Having a brand that doesn’t mean what it used to, or doesn’t mean anything at all, is no obstacle to generating bulk reader traffic. Look at NewsWhip’s list of the most-engaged-with articles on Facebook in September, and you’ll find such nonlegendary names as OnlineNewz.Today and PoliticsUSA, low-budget sites loaded with browser-murdering junk ads. One of the most consistently successful publishers on Facebook is the right-wing site Daily Wire, which appears to juice its stats by automatically reposting its stories on ostensibly unaffiliated pages with perfunctorily iterative brand names like Pro-America News, Conservative News, the Real Patriots, and Lady Patriots.

Using an established brand for OnlineNewz-style content gives you a built-in audience to try to jump-start your zero-value network with. And the strategy can “work.” Zombie Newsweek has popped up on NewsWhip’s Facebook most-engaged list. So has the Hill, a daily congressional print publication that, though it still employs real beat reporters, has also built a prolific online clickbait operation that repackages other sites’ stories. Forbes Media said 2018 was its most profitable year in a decade.

Bryan Curtis, “Deadspin and the Mavening of sportswriting” (The Ringer):

A Mavened publication has certain qualities. First, the owners take whatever editorial line the publication was pushing and do the opposite. Sometimes, this is as simple as taking good journalism and making it bad.

During its death march, the Village Voice pruned its famous arts coverage by cutting critics like Robert Christgau. At Texas Monthly, a magazine with a history of ass-kicking journalism, a former editor was caught discussing publicity plans with the company run by a cover subject. During Forbes veteran Lewis D’Vorkin’s brief, bonkers run as L.A. Times editor, he proposed a homepage full of “GIFs, GIFs, all manner of media.”

Readers find that Mavened publications lack their favorite bylines. On Wednesday, Deadspin staffers like Tom Ley and Laura Wagner quit. In 2017, the LA Weekly’s “Red Wedding” claimed the jobs of nine of the paper’s 13 editorial staffers.

The writers who replace them are typically notable for not being notable. When Ross Levinsohn was CEO and publisher of the L.A. Times, he proposed making part of the paper a “network of deep micro-niche vertical ‘entrepreneurs’ and their audiences.” Now running Occupied Sports Illustrated, Levinsohn is proposing a reboot. SI will be staffed by dozens of content-creating “mavens” who will make as little as $25,000 a year.

Inevitably, the overlords will insist that big, splashy hires are right around the corner. (“We’re excited about Deadspin’s future and we’ll have some important updates in the coming days,” G/O Media crowed on Wednesday.) But the hallmarks of Mavened publications include sloppy writing, a deadening lack of higher thought, a pro-Jeffrey Epstein blog, and a sad plea (in after-the-fall LA Weekly) for “Angelinos” to write the contents of the paper.

Alex Shepard, “After Deadspin” (The New Republic):

Any financial entity that is in the media business will hopefully look at what’s happened at G/O as a warning. The staff of Deadspin and its sister sites have shown remarkable courage in fighting back and walking out. They have done enormous damage to the reputation of Great Hill and to private equity more broadly. And they have shown that there is a way to rake in profits in this godforsaken business: by being smart, thoughtful, and funny, by making something people actually care about.

The problem is that there aren’t a lot of sites like Deadspin. When combined with Facebook and Google’s near total takeover of the advertising business, you have an environment that’s lethal toward creativity. So when private equity and other members of the oligarchic class survey the world of media, they see the devastation that the internet has wrought: a pile of enervated news organizations and an endless stream of sameness. And they figure, why bother doing anything else? It’s just the way things work now.

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