End of a snarky era: Gawker shuts down Valleywag

The New York-based blog network will turn its Silicon Valley title into a column on Gawker.com written by current Valleywag editor Owen Thomas.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

On the same day that he published a detailed missive about his dire predictions for the online ad market, Gawker Media overlord Nick Denton made public his decision to shut down Valleywag, the blog network's Silicon Valley gossip title. Valleywag was launched early in 2006.

Valleywag editor Owen Thomas will have his job folded into a column on the Gawker.com flagship title, a gossip blog focused primarily on the New York media industry. Denton explained in an e-mail to CNET News that Thomas will remain full-time and that the Valleywag brand (as well as Valleywag.com) will stay alive.

Presumably, this means that Thomas' posts will be syndicated to Valleywag.com even though their chief destination will now be Gawker.com.

A recession seems like a great time to be running a gossip blog about the tech business, given all the juicy photos of sad, laid-off employees and rumors of badly-behaved CEOs mismanaging their companies that inevitably fly around. But the reason for Valleywag's shutdown was Denton's notoriously doom-and-gloom vision of the future--Internet ad spending will decline a full 40 percent, he predicts--and Valleywag was one of the company's less lucrative titles.

"Valleywag's traffic isn't enough to pay for two writers, even with Ketel One ads on every page," wrote Valleywag senior writer Paul Boutin, who will not stay full-time at Gawker Media.

It was a tough sell for advertisers, given its niche audience, and many tech companies would be hesitant to advertise on a publication dedicated to ridiculing tech companies. And then there was the fact that you just can't turn the average Valley exec or VC into a Perez Hilton-style celebrity. The likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Peter Thiel, and Elon Musk simply don't add up to Britney Spears-like followings.

Reactions in the tech community will probably be mixed. Valleywag is mean, to be sure, but it can also be hilarious, and writers Thomas and Boutin were tech-press regulars long before their Gawker gigs.

Denton's handling of Gawker has been frugal, continually consolidating resources toward the blogs that were pulling in traffic and ad dollars and not hesitating to shut down the underperformers. In April, Gawker Media sold off three of its smallest blogs, and Denton has now announced that another, Consumerist, is on the block.

Early in October, Denton orchestrated a personnel shuffling that saw 14 percent of the company's editorial staff laid off but new hires made at some of the most successful titles like gadget blog Gizmodo and feminist chronicle Jezebel.

Also on Wednesday, AllThingsD's Peter Kafka reporter that Gawker Media managing editor Noah Robischon was leaving for Fast Company.

This post was expanded at 11:51 a.m. PT on Thursday.