Memo to Gawker Media staff
From: Nick Denton
Subject: Editorial at the midway mark
Date: Tuesday, July 6, 2010, 7:53 PM
When we started paying more attention to new readers — rather than simply pandering to our regulars — we knew it would be difficult.
Our audience, drained by the sale of sites like Consumerist and the merger of others, was largely flat during 2009. There’s more competition for the favor of Google, which has long been the primary source of new readers. Several of our sites are mature; and we’ve wondered on occasion whether we’re reaching the natural limit of their reach.
And we all know unique visitors are much harder to move than pageviews. There are no easy tricks; just great stories that other publishers have to link to; and that readers have to click.
I promised Brian Lam and others that I would talk less about the numbers and more about the stories. But the growth over the last 12 months has been too impressive to neglect. The audience at the end of June was some 38% up on a year earlier and many sites individually did better than that — even those supposedly mature sites like Gizmodo and Gawker — up 59% and 68% respectively — that some skeptics thought had maxed out in 2007 or earlier.
Here are the detailed numbers.
So why — putting modesty aside — are we so amazing?
Well, first, Gawker’s technology underpinnings have improved. (Yeah, I know that might seem a stretch after the problems of the last two weeks.) Pageload time has gone from 8 seconds to between 5 and 6. And the new design will take us down to 4 seconds.
Second, we’ve begun our first serious marketing effort. (We were always to editorially snobby before to pitch our wares in a consistent fashion; marketing was for losers.) The greatest success: Chris Mascari’s drive to promote Fan pages on Facebook and distribute our stories into individual newsfeeds. Our Facebook refers were 6.2m last month, up 67% on the month before and triple what they were at the end of last year. Most of these are new readers; some of them we believe will become regulars.
But above all, our stories are stronger and sharper. The numbers on the Big Board have helped focus attention on the performance of each story; but the reports below from each site lead demonstrate something else. It’s editorial flair, not some descent to the web lowest common denominator, that is rewarded and recognized.
The Top 100 in June
Ryan’s iPad post taught us a lesson about paying close attention to random tips that come in. What initially seemed somewhat dubious turned out to be our biggest story of the month.
Hamilton’s American Apparel story comes up on the list 4 times… A good example of how to dig into a story and mine it for all its worth and solicit info from readers.
A couple of Maureen’s posts deconstructing web rumors were on the list… i think that’s turned into a good conceit for us.
The rules of Fleshbot traffic are simple, says Lux: “sex + tech and sex + D-list celebrities. Also, crossposting.”
The Future of Sex: iPhone FaceTime Edition (that’s the one I’m most proud of)
Do You Care If Your Smartphone Has Porn Apps?
Exclusive: Stills From The Danielle Staub Sex Tape
Pete Rose’s Corked Bat was really the biggest breakout with extra effort. Built from an eBay tip, Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky put in the extra effort to find out whether MLB’s all-time hits leader was also a scoundrel on the field. http://deadspin.com/5555714/
iPhone 4 Loses Reception When You Hold It By The Antenna Band? Constantly updated (60+times), incorporating readers into submitting their problems and being a part of of a community-sourced movement to determine whether or not there was a problem or not paid off. Hitting the topic early and hard also helped to make us definitive on this, so anyone who mentioned the issue had to mention/link us. http://gizmodo.com/5571171
Watch the Apple Keynote’s Network Meltdown: Everyone loves to see someone flop, and to break this out early was smart. http://gizmodo.com/5557458
Are Cameras the New Guns? Proof that spotting a good syndication is as good as executing on your own idea. http://gizmodo.com/5553765
Our “silence vuvuzela” post wasn’t the first by any means, but I think we took the idea and made more out of it than anyone else was doing. It ended up getting picked up everywhere, and I think a lot of that was because of the video we made. http://lifehacker.com/5564085
The Watch World Cup Online post was kind of a gimme. It ended up high in Google, and we just timed the post well. http://lifehacker.com/5559652
How to Downgrade Your iPhone 3G[S] from iOS 4 to iOS 3.1.3. Good timing, fixing a problem for a lot of people. http://lifehacker.com/5572003
Looks like our entry into the top 25 was that silly cat video. What I will say about that: It never hurts to pick up a viral video a day or two after it’s come out; you can’t assume your readers have already seen it. Give it the right headline, and send virals to facebook automatically. Always helps. http://jezebel.com/5564433/
Sarah Palin’s breast implants was our next highest story. This worked for a couple of reasons: We were the first big-big site to grab it off of a smaller site (Wonkette), which helped us claim it. We also wisely (given that Jez isn’t really about analyzing someone’s boobs) distanced ourselves from the piece by chuckling about what the other idiots were saying. But we still inserted our own takeaway (probs not fake). Took all of 20 minutes to write it, photo time included. http://jezebel.com/5558324/
The Lohan porn-star script: Why’d it work? A straight-up scoop. Scored a document that, while ostensibly “just a script,” has a tabloidian interest factor (ie, it’s Lohan’s next movie). http://jezebel.com/5571979/
And while it’s not in the top 100, I’d give Irin’s Daily Show item a mention: It still did very well, and it earned us the kind of publicity — Jon! Namechecked! Us! — we can’t buy. Moreover, it was widely circulated within the media, spawned several more discussions, and affirmed our status as both an influencer and a muckraker. http://jezebel.com/5570545
Explainer about mass extinction – everybody loves learning about the end of the world: http://io9.com/5558871/
A good headline works wonders: http://io9.com/5557894/
So does snark, occasionally: http://io9.com/5576076/
JALOPNIK and KOTAKU were awesome, obviously. But their site leads didn’t tell me about the awesomeness in time for this note.