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Former Gawker sites not happy with new owners

Gawker was sued out of existence by Hulk Hogan back in 2016. While Gawker itself ceased to exist, its constellation of related sites including Kotaku, Deadspin, Jezebel, Gizmodo, and others survived. These sites were sold back in April to a private equity firm called Great Hills Media. Great Hills also purchased the Onion and formed G/O Media.

Things must not be going very well at the former Gawker sites because recently several of them re-introduced autoplay ads with sound, something which hasn’t been seen much on the internet for nearly a decade. That led to three of the sites, Deadspin, Kotaku, and Jezebel, publishing identical stories Monday afternoon titled “A note to our readers” about the auto-sound ads:

“Editorial staffers at all levels of this company have made our concerns known in various conversations with members of G/O Media’s senior leadership team,” the blog read. “We think it would be good for them to hear from you as well, so we invite you to submit feedback about our site’s current user experience … Please keep your comments respectful.”

Within a few hours, management at G/O Media, which is owned by the private equity firm Great Hill Partners, unilaterally deleted these blog posts soliciting feedback.

The employees’ union noted the deletion, posted a copy of the original note to readers.

The union also encouraged people to continue sending feedback to the email set up for that purpose. Vice reports there were around 1,300 responses in a few hours. But by this morning the email address had been shut down.

At least one former employee encouraged people to start emailing the CEO directly:

While all of this was happening, the owners had also issued an ultimatum to Deadspin’s employees Monday telling them to stick to sports:

In a Monday memo to staff, G/O Media editorial director Paul Maidment told the employees of the site—which primarily covers sports, but also frequently writes about media, politics, and culture—to abstain from stories that do not have an explicit link to sports.

“To create as much great sports journalism as we can requires a 100% focus of our resources on sports. And it will be the sole focus,” Maidment said. “Deadspin will write only about sports and that which is relevant to sports in some way.”

But Deadspin employees decided to do their own thing. In fact, on Tuesday they made their entire homepage a collection of non-sports stories, including “Three Good Dogs I Met.” Some of the stories on the homepage today were months old, like this one about the Covington students:

A short time after this effort to disregard the owner’s wishes, a Deputy Editor at the site announced he had been fired:

The union responded on Twitter promising “This will not stand.”

So, to sum all of this up, readers and employees are unhappy with the company’s choice of annoying ads and encouraged readers to complain about it. The company deleted those posts and warned writers at Deadspin to stick to sports. But Deadspin decided to give the owners a big middle finger by making today’s home page completely non-sports. The company responded by firing a deputy editor and the union is now vowing that his firing will not stand. Generally speaking, it sounds like the site and its owners are at war. It also sounds like the owners are a little desperate to raise ad revenue, even at the cost of potentially annoying readers with auto-play ads with sound.

Gawker media’s whole ethos seems to be about saying whatever the hell you want (which is one major reason Gawker is no more). It’s hard to imagine they’ll get on board with whatever edicts the owners start issuing. My recommendation to everyone watching this play out: Buy popcorn in bulk.

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