Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Duff: Check out the hottest magazines on the Web – not available in print

Duff: Check out the hottest magazines on the Web – not available in print

The hottest magazines on the Web aren’t magazines at all. While most entertainment mags are losing audience, Nick Denton’s Gawker site is drawing 300,000 visitors per day.

Denton manages a suite of 14 Web sites, covering everything from travel to videogames. His flagship site, Gawker.com, started as a witty, acerbic guide to New York – sharp young outsiders poking fun at the elite.

Now, after ten years of snark and gossip, Gawker hasn’t just chipped away at the elite, they’ve redefined what elite is.

Gawker editors cut their teeth making fun of figures in mainstream media, only to get snatched up and hired away by the very publications they’re mocking.

New York publishing moguls may not have a sense of humor, but they know good writing, and Denton’s blogs are all about good writing.

These blogs succeed by putting words first. While mainstream media sites are packing in widgets and cramming links into every inch of screen space, the Gawker sites are stripped-down, almost austere by comparison.

These sites aren’t built on traditional journalism. Instead, they market themselves as the antidote to traditional journalism – a delicious mix of gossip, humor and innuendo that would send most magazine publishers running for their lawyers.

The blogs aren’t aggressively obscene (unless you count the porn blog) but they are clearly written for adults. And now, with the addition of user comments, the editors are frequently upstaged by their audience.

Gawker is my favorite Denton property, but the empire isn’t built exclusively on snark and celebrity gossip. Denton’s game blog, Kotaku, offers outstanding coverage of video games and Internet trends, while a sister site, Consumerist, helps shoppers find deals and get fair treatment from arrogant corporations.

Defamer covers Hollywood and celebrity gossip. Deadspin offers a twisted take on sports and Jezebel is to women’s magazines what the Sex Pistols were to rock ‘n’ roll.

The future of magazines has arrived, but you need a Web browser to see it. Text isn’t dead, it just let its hair down. The Denton blogs have defined a new writing style for the Web, and the old guard magazines are struggling to catch up.

Crisp, rude, funny and informative – this voice doesn’t sound like journalism. It sounds like a dorm room bull session, like nightclub chatter, lubricated by good music and a few drinks.

Readers in the 18-34 range eat this up. Gawker’s audience is 75 percent young and 66 percent female.

In an age where most publications are struggling to attract young readers, Denton is putting them to work.

Gawker commenters generate a staggering amount of content now. While the editors toil for moderate wages, dozens of brilliant writers are contributing for free, cracking jokes at the party, becoming micro-celebrities in their own right.

And of course, these sites are not for everybody. Older readers are likely to find themselves bewildered or even repelled by the tone of these blogs. Denton’s sites have taken a lot of heat (and lost a few advertisers) over the years, but you can’t redefine an industry without breaking some eggs.

Written by Michael B. Duff

November 30, 2007 at 13:46

Posted in Columns

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