4 Dumb Ways Your Favorite Sites Are Dying
Considering the tragic state the world is currently in, you'd think that the internet would be thriving, thanks to people escaping from reality in any way possible. Even if it's right into the warm raw sewage of online culture, because hey, at least it's warm. But that does not seem to be the case, and even some of the major sites are getting hit hard. Like how ...
Deadspin Exploded Due To Bad Management
Up until October 2019, the sports website Deadspin was famous for one thing: not sticking to sports. It worked because the site's hot takes on everything from politics to pop culture would always do great numbers. It proved that if nothing else, the site had a quality set of dedicated, hardworking writers whom you'd have to be a goddamn idiot to lose. Enter Jim "Herb" Spanfeller.
G/O Media, the company which ran Deadspin, was acquired by the private equity group Great Hill Partners, which installed Spanfeller as CEO and gave him one mission: Make them richer. Which he would do by turning Deadspin into a sports-only website. The editors disagreed, and showed him hard data about how well they were doing. But Spanfeller was insistent that the site's sports coverage was more popular. Soon enough, the site's editor-in-chief was out.
The hammer finally fell on October 28, when the site's editorial director, Paul Maidment, issued a staffwide memo telling everyone that from then on, Deadspin would "write only about sports and that which is relevant to sports in some way." The staff, of course, spent the entirety of the next day writing and publishing articles about anything non-sports-related that came to mind.
After Spanfeller responded by firing the site's editor, Barry Petcheksy, the staff went nuclear and resigned en masse. Only four days after the "stick to sports" memo, 20 editors and writers had resigned, which in turn caused an exodus of readers. Traffic dropped by over 75%.
Spanfeller et al tried to stem the bleeding by hiring a new writer, but he quit as soon as he realized how bad that looked. The task of writing content then fell to Paul Maidment, but he had to give it up after it turned out that A) he sucked at it, and B) he was fired. As for Spanfeller, he's currently trying to rebuild the site in Chicago. We have a feeling that staffing that ship is going to a little difficult, not least because of his anti-union antics, his newly pending discrimination lawsuit, and how he ran that ship aground in the first place.
Sports Illustrated Has Become A Weird Click Factory
Despite its long and illustrious history, Sports Illustrated now mostly functions as a strange sort of clickbait site. How did we get here? Well, in June 2019, the magazine was sold to Maven Media, a tech company fronted by James Heckman and Ross Levinsohn. One of the first moves Heckman and Levinsohn made, of course, was to lay off nearly half their newsroom staff. They announced that going forward, SI would transition from traditional journalism to implementing "team communities." It was a thinly veiled ripoff of SB Nation whereby reporting would be done by local sports fans for a handsome fee of ... exposure? Cultural gratitude? What's the current corp-speak for "Hahaha, nothing"?
When Deadspin investigated (we're layers of irony deep here), they found that Maven was telling the people running these "team communities" stood to earn anywhere between $25,000 and $30,000 a year ... if they could find lots of writers who love work and hate money. But what if the internet was a better place, and they couldn't find writers willing to work for less than pennies? Then they were supposed to hit up local colleges and find young students willing to work for free. Was there any benefit to doing this? Yes, actually! If a local story got big enough, it'd be picked up by the main website, where the (paid) staff would put a "national spin" on it. Which we believe is code for "We're going to rewrite your entire piece, and maybe link you as the source if you're nice."
On the upside, SI's staff just voted to unionize, meaning that when Heckman and Levinsohn decide to replace everyone with daddy bloggers and plagiarists, they'll be able to keep a fraction of their dignity. Not much, but some.
Gawker 2.0 Is Being Kept Afloat Out Of A Possible Vendetta
In 2018, when it was revealed that the burnt-out shell of Gawker had been purchased by Bryan Goldberg, the tech magnate behind Bustle and Bleacher Report, people were skeptical. And apparently for good reason, since Goldberg's attempts to revitalize Gawker have been a spectacular failure from the start.
After buying up the site, Goldberg approached the old editors to see if any of them wanted to take the helm, but they all turned him down. (As one put it, "I told him that one of the great joys of not working for Gawker ... is that I haven't had to give a shit about anything that has happened or will happen to it.") When Goldberg did manage to put together a starting lineup, it turned out that one of them was a transphobic shithead with a history of posting racist and homophobic tweets. (The full package!) And after Goldberg refused to condemn their actions, the vast majority of his lineup walked.
The following year, Gawker 2.0 was (re)staffed and raring to go. Its writers were already hard at work researching articles when, with no warning, Goldberg announced that the relaunch had been cancelled and everyone was fired. So that's the end of that? Maybe, maybe not. When Esquire's Kate Storey asked if he still planned to relaunch the site, she got a terse, one-word answer: "Yes."
On the other hand, this has been such a train wreck that you really have to wonder whether this wasn't all an elaborate ruse -- Goldberg's way of getting back at Gawker for once describing him as a "clueless scamp" and "not a smart man." (That's probably the case, isn't it?)
Every Website You Love Is Firing People
We don't know if you've been following the news, but every website everywhere is laying people off. Despite the fact that last year was a ceaseless smorgasbord of news, scandals, and other things worth writing about, over 7,800 journalists and writers lost their jobs. There were mass layoffs from the likes of USA Today, Bustle (twice), Gizmodo, Sports Illustrated, HuffPost (twice), Pitchfork, The Washington Post, Spin, Vice (twice), ESPN, NPR, CTV, CBC, CNN, BuzzFeed, Conde Nast, and MAD.
This year isn't shaping up to be any better, either. It's only the first month, but CollegeHumor recently laid off over 100 people. We'd say that things that aren't looking good for online comedy, but we just pivoted to shilling unregulated, untested supplements and dietary teas. It works for everyone else, so fuck it, why can't it work for us?
For more, check out How Companies Really Do Corporate Layoffs: