Nick Denton Believes He Is Steve Jobs
Curiously, one of the biggest tech news stories of the day is not that Kyocera, the company that can’t make your printer right built a dual-screen phone. No, the big story is apparently that Gizmodo changed their site. It has made headlines. It has made commenters angry. It has set the twitterverse positively abuzz with fresh rants about how now this website looks different. Scandal!
Which is, perhaps, the most surprising aspect of it all. A redesign of a website has people talking. For my part, I’ve been around the internet for a good many years now, and I’ve seen more than my share of site redesigns. I’ve even performed a couple myself. Few ever rival the outcry of Facebook redesigns, although that is a special case. You can’t begrudge a group of 500 million users a little unbridled rage when they wake up and their time-sensitive Farmville crops are now located under a differently-labeled button. What is an internet netizen to do?!
Yet this redesign has sparked feedback and criticism on the Inquisitr, Reddit, heck even the venerable friend of Gizmodo Adam Savage. Shots are being fired at Gawker Media and their platform-wide redesign from all directions. And the effects are certainly farther reaching than a mere gadget blog. While Gizmodo is certainly one of their more popular sites, joining the ranks of Deadspin, their sports site and Gawker proper, that’s by no means the end of Gawker Media’s reach. Jezebel for women’s gossip and news, Kotaku for the video game circles, even Lifehacker for the productivity-minded folks who would as soon read Business Insider as they would Psychology Today or Instructables. This is no niche corner of the net, folks. While it may not be huge in every circle, this redesign is being talked about by a wide variety of demographics all over the internet.
And that’s half the point.
Unfortunately for Gawker Media, that’s not all of it. There’s still the little matter of page views. And unfortunately, on opening day, page views have taken a major hit. This could be because of the redesign, but it could also be because, for half the day, most sites were barely functioning. Yet it’s all anyone can talk about.
This redesign was heralded as an entirely new way of thinking. A radical new approach that borrows from a variety of sources, combining them together in one slick, innovative package that polarizes its intended audience and, ultimately, attempts to do nothing less than change the course of the industry’s future.
You could take that description and apply it neatly to most Apple products. One thing that is true of both this redesign and any review of a new Apple product is that the critics and the fans will be the loudest and most outspoken. Critics, usually, louder than most. And yet, that constant, very public, very loud debate is typically what drives a large portion of the growth of popular new products. Would Macs sell as well if there weren’t devoted fanboys willing to evangelize their platform as strongly as they do? Would the iPhone discourse be nearly as exciting if Android weren’t there to serve as the shadow of Microsoft, threatening the same fate for the iPhone as Macs suffered at the hands of Windows machines in the 90s? Is tedium ever as interesting as controversy?
If you’ve read any blog owned by Gawker Media for an even remotely lengthy period of time, you already know Nick Denton’s answer to that.
This new design reflects something more far-reaching than a mere site redesign. This is a gambit. A bet. To see if a blog can be changed into something more than a simple reverse-chronological list of articles. Or at least that’s how Nick Denton seems to see it. It’s not about reorganizing a site’s content. It’s about implementing a model for media distribution that will set the standard for the internet from here on out. The internet is still fairly new. Can Gawker Media be the potter’s hands that shapes the internet into the universal media platform it was destined to be? Or will it fall into darkness with all that is left of its dot-com-boom kin?
And for what it’s worth, this is no metaphor. Denton is literally betting on this design. You know, in addition to the whole gambling the future of his entire media company.
I suppose the real question is, do the various Gawker Media blogs have enough loyal fans that they’ll be able to generate the kind of support needed to sustain them through a heavy transition like this? Or is this kind of move too bold for an established media company like Gawker to pull off?
Also, this article isn’t nearly as funny as the nature of this site demands it be. So to make it up to you, here’s a video of some dude doing an Elmo voice at a Taco Bell drive thru: