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Feb. 1, 2023, 11:55 a.m.
Business Models

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

BDG CEO Bryan Goldberg called Gawker “a pre-monetization product,” but the brand is really old in internet years.

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.”

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.

Laura Hazard Owen is the editor of Nieman Lab. You can reach her via email (laura_owen@harvard.edu) or Twitter DM (@laurahazardowen).
POSTED     Feb. 1, 2023, 11:55 a.m.
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