Competitors "come and go," Gawker Media honcho Nick Denton says in a monthly newsletter sent to staff Monday. September was the company's second-best-ever month, he writes.

Denton also says that after a company retreat to Budapest this summer, "it became clear we needed to reset our expectations for progress on Kinja." The commenting/publishing platform has seen some successes internally, but requires "steady progress along a wider front." Gawker is reorganizing its tech department and is searching for a head of engineering "to improve motivation, training and coordination of developers," he writes.

There's also a floor plan of Gawker Media's new planned offices.

Here's the memo:

Hey! I haven't done one of these monthly newsletters since before my sabbatical.

They're typically written for an external audience in the expectation that they'll be leaked, like a press release in disguise. But I want to change that: as well as trumpeting traffic growth and other achievements, I'll confront our internal questions about the progress of Kinja and competitive challenges.

Here below is where my head is at; but let's make this an ongoing conversation.Email your questions, points and ideas to nick@gawker.com and I'll try to respond, privately if you prefer or in the next of these newsletters. I really want to hear from you!

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DANIEL RADCLIFFE’S FAVORITE SITE
It was Deadspin’s month. TMZ may have got hold of the Ray Rice video showing the running back punching out his girlfriend. But Tommy Craggs' team excelled in exposing the corporate politics behind the story.
There's no way that Deadspin writers could cover a scandal like this if beholden, like other journalists, to the leagues, the teams and ESPN. It is present proof of the viability and vitality of independent media. On screens crowded with generic headlines, virtuous purpose is sufficiently differentiating. And it's recognized.
Says Andy Weissman of Union Square Ventures: "Deadspin is part of Gawker. If you've been reading it for the last week, the guardians of independent media claim rings so true."
Media mentions for the site are through the roof, says Tim Burke, who monitors these things. (The site has other surprising fans. Deadspin is the primary news source for Daniel Radcliffe, the actor who played Harry Potter.)

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EMMA CARMICHAEL’S JEZEBEL
Another site to watch right now: Jezebel, where Emma Carmichael is making a strong start as editor-in-chief. (Many of you already know her from earlier stints at Deadspin and Gawker.)
The site’s in excellent shape: Jessica, who will still write for the site from Chicago, quadrupled the site’s audience in four years. Jezebel puts out stories you can’t imagine anywhere else. This was one of my favorites last month, Erin Ryan’s revelation that Miss America is a sorority bully.
But sites and people move on. Dodai is leaving to join Anna Holmes, Jezebel’s founding editor, at Fusion; Tracie will helm a vertical at Vice. I’m glad that Jezebel has been such a launching pad. It will be too for the new writers Emma is bringing on. Three of her top talent picks are already on the site.

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THE LONG GAME

In September, we drew 73m people in the US​ -- ​21 percent more than the same month last year. It was our second best ever month -- and the fourth year of consistent audience growth.

Others like Buzzfeed and Upworthy, lifted by investment and social network marketing, have grown faster at times. But no other company has grown more consistently.
Below is something I put together for the national sales meeting: a table that shows the past competitors we've faced​, ranked by audience​. (It doesn't include Weblogs Inc., which was sold to AOL in 2006.) It helps put into perspective the current contest.

To me it’s a reminder that competitors come and go. Occasionally there’s something to be learned from them. The success of Vox.com underlines the value to readers of explainers, for instance.
But each of the companies on this list has succeeded by doing what it’s good at. And for us that’s a candid and conversational approach to news and other information.

The blogger -- a more open and collaborative version of the traditional journalist -- remains at the heart of our project. And our bloggers' distinctive offering, as it has always been, is the story behind the story.​

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THE ONLINE MEDIA BOOM
Competition is -- at least as long as investor confidence remains so strong -- likely only to increase.
It’s axiomatic. As readers and advertisers switch to online media, Gawker Media continues to grow. But there’s a flipside. That same shift also draws in surplus capital desperate for higher returns, making the sector more crowded than it’s ever been.

September’s big industry news was Vice raising $500m after Shane Smith’s virtuoso seduction of the trade press and aging media moguls. The impact is direct: some of that investment is going on a new vertical for women to be run by departing Jezebel bloggers.
Among the backers in the $50m round Reddit just closed this week is Silicon Valley’s most aggressive venture capital firm, Andreessen Horowitz, which has also backed Genius and Buzzfeed. (Though the lead partner also warned lossmaking companies would vaporize.) In the last twelve months, at least half a dozen direct competitors, including Vox and Business Insider, have received double-digit million infusions of cash.

Online, Gawker is the only major independent media organization. We don’t want to be beholden to investors and limited by their time horizons. But how’s an independent media company to deal with a tidal wave of capital coming towards our pleasant island?

Well, this helps: through advertising sales, we’re funding both our ongoing operations and significant investment in software. Our Sales operation, a fusion of Gawker veterans and more recent arrivals from Conde Nast and other media companies, has expertly navigated a changing ad market.
The amount of revenue per page has increased—against industry trends—the last two years in a row. And last week -- with Capital One and other first-time advertisers coming in -- we came within spitting distance of the entire year’s revenue target for direct advertising.

Here’s the chart from the 3rd floor of the first 40 weeks of the year, showing how much of a gap we’re opening up over the same time last year. (Still another 12 weeks to go​, and commerce revenues are growing even faster than direct advertising.)​

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PRODUCT AND ENGINEERING MANAGEMENT
After the Budapest tech offsite in August, it became clear we needed to reset our expectations for progress on Kinja.

First, let’s register the good news. There’s now a clear definition of the target, and the work on the new Editor is a promising sign. Side blogs like Fittish and Foxtrot Alpha -- run on the Kinja platform and under the domains of our eight flagship titles -- have injected new vigor into our core properties. The discussion platform brings in people like Julian Assange, and these helpful Lifehacker readers.

But we need steady progress along a wider front. The reorganization of the Tech department around individual product initiatives will help. The recruitment of additional product managers to coordinate these teams
​is the main constraint:
Peri,​
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Lauren
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and Alex ​are stretched thin. A search is also underway for a head of engineering, to improve motivation, training and coordination of developers.

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THE COLLABORATIVE WORKPLACE
This isn’t just about bringing in new people; we need to introduce a new ethos. Patience, for instance, is a challenge for people who operate on an internet media rhythm -- well, for me, certainly. I'm going to have to dial down some of the Kinja evangelism—at least till the software product catches up.
Every significant online media company now recognizes that its future rests on software. But software development requires consistency of purpose. We’ll all have to get used to the inching pace of software development, all the meetings, all the restatements of the obvious, brainstorming sessions in which we have to restrain our argumentative natures.

It's an approach different from most hierarchical media companies. The attachment to it, among the best software product managers, is almost religious. And I’m a convert.

For a layman’s guide to creative teamwork, Tom recommends Creativity, Inc., Ed Catmull’s description of Pixar’s management, summarized here. And Peri points to the similar approach at IDEO, shown here in an ABC Nightline report.

It’s an organizational philosophy with its roots in software product development, but with application ​to editorial teams around individual Gawker properties or regional Sales teams.

The new office at Fifth Avenue and 17th Street is being designed with
these creative teams
in mind. Have a read of Kelsey's interview with the architects in Gizmodo. And here, below, is the latest plan for one of the floors at 2 W 17th St, our future address. You can see the studios around a central axis, each contained on three sides​.

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THE OUTAGE THAT WASN’T
I’m going to leave you with the biggest non-story from September. Remember the catastrophe when Hurricane Sandy took out our datacenter? Well, that could have happened again on September 22.
Says Jim Bartus: “3:22 - 5:29 would have been a hard outage, just timeouts and browser errors. 5:29 - 6:43 would have been an angry mess of the sites being up but not updating, no one being able to login, post, etc.” But it wasn’t, because we diverted readers and bloggers to our backup datacenter.

The tech operations team, which designs the hardware architecture and maintains our servers, usually only gets notice when something goes wrong. This time, for once, I want to recognize what went right. A disaster averted:​ that too is ​a triumph. For the technically minded, here’s Jim’s account.

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NEXT TIME

A story I missed? Email me back about it -- or anything that should be on our radar for October.