In his internal/external note to staff/readers, editor Max Read (an amazing name for an editor, btw) says the following:
Instead of publishing the majority of our stories directly to the front page, we’ll be publishing them on to a set of subject-focused sub-blogs (a.k.a. “verticals,” or, cutely, “diagonals”—I personally prefer to just borrow newspaper terminology wholesale and call them “sections”). Some of them—Valleywag, Defamer, Morning After—already exist. Others—focused on media, news, and politics—we’ve created.
In other words Gawker is abandoning the vestiges of being a “blog,” where everything goes onto the reverse-chronology front page, seemingly because the front page can’t handle the volume any longer and good stories were getting buried. So they need to curate that front page a little more closely and push some stuff to other sections.
If this sounds familiar it’s because that’s what newspapers do every day. The best/most important news makes it to the front page and above the fold (an old-school term we also still use for web content) while the most important sports stories appear on the front of the Sports section, the most important Arts stories on the front page of Arts and so on.
This, as Joshua Benton points out, is the second story in the past few days that has sounded very much Gawker is adopting more of an old-media model. The first was Nick Denton’s statement about how a “layer of subjective editorial judgement” would now be used to reward writers for a job well done as opposed to measuring their worth simply by actual or expected page view numbers.
That Gawker is moving toward a more curated front page says more to me about how online media has scaled/should be scaling than any story about the number of writers, the amount of advertising revenue or anything else. You know you’re achieved a certain scale when you start having to pick your shots more carefully, not when you just add as many hands to take as many shots as possible.
Denton in his note says that Gawker simply can’t – or won’t – play the page views game against something like Buzzfeed, which he concedes has won that particular match. But Buzzfeed, for all its success – and I’m not a naysayer here – has a “just throw it all against the wall and see what sticks” model. I don’t even know how many hundreds of pieces it publishes each day but it’s hard to see editorial judgement being exercised there. The answer to “should we publish this?” is simply always going to be “Yes” because for all their predictive systems it still comes down to the big hits helping to finance the pieces that don’t take off.
So while Gawker may still publish whatever it darn well pleases at whatever volume it sees fit, the folks there at least acknowledge that a bit of curation and organization makes for a much better user experience.
It should also be noted that this is the first story I’ve read in a while that places some sort of value on the home page. For the last five years or more there’s been a steady stream of “the home page is dead” op-eds as people talk about how people aren’t typing SampleSite.com and clicking around anymore but are coming in via links to specific stories the site or their friends have shared on social networks. But here you have the Gawker editor talking about making the home page a better, less cluttered experience for visitors. That alone speaks volumes about the mindset in place at the site.