Be warned, anyone who works in media or anyone who knows anyone who works in media or anyone who knows anyone who consumes media. Apparently, a line in the sand has been drawn between blogs that cover NY media - a line in the sand, people! Or at least that's what an article in the NY Times City section suggests. The facts: In one snarky corner, there's Gawker with snarky publisher Nick Denton and snarky editor Jessica Coen, and in the other corner, there's Mediabistro, with less-snarky founder Laurel Touby and new uber-snarky editor Elizabeth Spiers (formerly of
snarkcorp Gawker- still with us?) who is co-authoring the Mediabistro media gossip blog, FishBowlNY - add some quotes about competition, snarketition, rivalries, bitch-smacking, and Tara Reid's boobies (we made two of those up!). It's like Million Dollar Baby, except without the million dollars, and with more snark, and um, what were we talking about?
Now for the best part: buried at the end of the article is the real reason why the Mediabistro blog was created. Touby says, "They pick on me all the time. After this, they won't want to give us any more press at all." Ha! Gothamist predicts that 10 new Gawker interns will be hired/picked up from the Port Authority to vet possible mistakes in Mediabistro coverage. The ensuing rivalry will spin out of control until "Snarkoff in the Hizzouse" is held on the roof of SoHo House in late June. But don't take our word for it - we've asked uber-NYC blogcritics Felix Salmon and Standard Deviance's Ellen Correia to weigh in with their opinions after the jump:
A) Felix Salmon:
OK. First, two numbers for you.
The name Elizabeth Spiers "inspires awe" only for people with long memories, by internet standards. Gawker is one of the strongest brands in the blogosphere, and the vast majority of the credit for that belongs to Nick Denton. MediaBistro, on the other hand, while it also has a strong brand identity, is only now starting its first proper blogs, with their own domain names and (one devoutly hopes) full RSS feeds. There's no doubt that Spiers "gets" blogs, but there's also no doubt that Laurel Touby is coming late to this particular game. Spiers is going to have a lot on her hands: aside from staying on top of the standard MB content and TVNewser.com, she's going to be co-editing FishbowlNY, and editor-in-chief of (take a deep breath now): Galleycat, Unbeige, FishbowlLA, FishbowlDC, and MBToolbox. Even Jason Calacanis, to my knowledge, has never tried to launch six different blogs in one day. That said, Spiers has well-known and highly experienced bloggers on board, including Nathalie Chicha and Claire Zulkey: they shouldn't need much babysitting, and, especially in the case of TVNewser's Brian Stelter, bring their own built-in readership to MediaBistro.
Prediction: The readership of the new MB blogs will grow even faster than Gawker's did. But I will also happily buy Elizabeth Spiers a lunch at Lever House if she can get either 5.2 million pageviews or 1.1 million unique visitors from her blogs, in aggregate, in any month of 2005.
B) Ellen Correia of Standard Deviance:
The warning shots of this particular blog battle were fired back in October when Laurel Touby, Mediabistro's founder, told the New York Sun, "You just don't hear about Gawker as much. The buzz is not as high as it used to be. I was forced to read it before. Now, not so much." While Gawker's current blog slaves, Jessica Coen and Matt Haber, are as funny as a cat accidentally thrown in the dryer (sorry Thompson!), the brain behind Gawker is its proprietor, Nick Denton. Nick's success with the blogs is due to his business smarts, sense of humor, and amazing PR skills. While Elizabeth Spiers is new to the blog-father(mother) game, her background qualifies her for the job: She knows the funny, she has experience in business (her pre-Gawker job was in finance), and she likely learned a thing or two from her old boss. So, has the student become the teacher? Some signs point to yes.
The incident the article cites where Elizabeth told aspiring writers that Mediabistro does not pay for freelance sounds eerily similar to Nick's claim that Gawker Media's limited ad revenue forces him to pay his writers in rubles. Both of them are likely lying through their teeth but by lowering expectations they are able to hire talented writers for a steal. Also, prior to every new Gawker blog launch an article profiling Nick's genius appears in the New York Times. Yesterday's article was the equivalent for Elizabeth.
However, there are some critical lessons Elizabeth may not have learned. 1) Management Doesn't Blog. Nick's a funny guy and could likely write Gawker himself, but then how would he find the time for lunches at Soho House and AIM recruitment of new writers? And another: 2) Don't Launch 6 Blogs At Once. Weblogs Inc. has followed the launch-a-million-blogs-at-once strategy and has ended up with a few moderately-successful blogs and dozens of crappy-designed crappy-named blogs (TUAW?? Seriously?).
So in the final analysis, I'm going to have to put my money on Gawker. Although I'm thrilled to see Elizabeth's return to blogging (none of this semi-annual posting b.s.), I think it's going to be very difficult for her to write a Gawker-caliber blog and run the entire Mediabistro show. But if in 9 months FishBowlNY is matching Gawker's current page views, I'll take Nick out to dinner because, let's face it, he'll need the moral support.
Thank you, Felix and Ellen, for your insights. More from low culture and Whatevs. And is it a conincidence that the NY Times' other blog story (bigger, with more pictures, in the more widely circulated Styles sections) was about baby blogs?