- Former Gawker employees have launched a Kickstarter to buy Gawker.com.
- Gawker.com ceased publication in 2016 and was not included in the sale to Univision.
- Gawker founder Nick Denton is not involved.
A group of former Gawker employees launched a Kickstarter on Monday to buy back the domain name and archives of the pioneering blog, which ceased publishing in 2016.
The non-profit project is looking to not only keep the site’s archive of blog posts alive, but also aims to re-launch the site.
“We’re a group of former Gawker Media employees across editorial, tech, and business, and we want to put in our own bid to buy it back,” according to the Kickstarter page.
The reason that the archives and domain name are for sale is because they were not included in the sale of the other Gawker Media properties to Univision in 2016. Gawker Media was forced to sell sites such as Gizmodo after it was forced into bankruptcy after Hulk Hogan was awarded $US140 million in damages stemming from a Gawker news article. Billionaire investor Peter Thiel secretly financed Hogan’s lawsuit.
The Gawker Foundation
The Kickstarter campaign, which is backed by a group calling itself “The Gawker Foundation,” is looking for $US500,000.
It’s being led by James Del, a former advertising executive at Gawker, and also involves Elizabeth Spiers, Gawker’s first editor, among what they say is a dozen “Gawker Media alumni.” Spiers will advise and will join the Gawker Foundation’s board of directors.
“I’m the only name involved because everyone else has a day job working for another company. I run my own company, so there’s no risk that I’m going to fire myself for being involved,” Spiers told Business Insider in an email.
Del told Business Insider that Cody Brown, founder of IRL VR and the former CEO and co-founder of Scroll Kit (which he sold to Word Press in 2014), is also advising the foundation.
“We can’t disclose the names of the former employees or editors as most of them have other jobs for the time being, but I can say that I’ve spoken with a few former Gawker.com EICs and received their support, over a dozen former employees and editors, and several “friends of Gawker” as well,” Del told Business Insider in an email. “As such, we don’t have a named editor of Gawker.com yet, though as the campaign progresses we plan to roll out more information about how that person will be selected.”
One person who’s not involved is Gawker founder and former publisher Nick Denton. “First I had heard of it,” Denton told Business Insider in an email on Monday.
“Nick Denton is not involved, I haven’t spoken to him in almost a year and he is currently working on his new project in Europe,” Del told Business Insider. “As far as I know, he’s completely moved on (and barred in the bankruptcy agreement from participating in the sale).”
Some news: Today, after months of work from a handful of former @Gawker employees/friends (incl @espiers), we're proud launch https://t.co/vTl3Ycfjhd, a @kickstarter effort to preserve the archives and make a bid to buy back the site. If you give a damn, please donate!
— James Del (@JDel) December 11, 2017
The foundation has a two-part objective. First, to keep Gawker’s archives online, which consists of a “couple hundred thousand articles,” according to Spiers.
The second objective is to relaunch Gawker under the “stewardship of former editors, new writers, and an entirely membership-funded model.” If it’s not under the Gawker.com domain name, they will choose a new name, but the site will still be modelled off of Gawker.
“By setting ourselves up as an ownerless, advertiser-less, non-profit media organisation, the editorial team will be able to do what they do best,” said the group’s Kickstarter page.
But the Gawker Foundation’s goals may be limited by what the Gawker Media estate decides to do with the site’s archive and domain name.
“My biggest concern personally is that all of Gawker gets erased, and you’re talking 14 years of work and a couple hundred thousand articles,” Spiers said.
“The estate may decide to separate the archives from the domains, etc., but right now, they’re packaged together,” she continued. If they lose the bid, the winner could choose to take the archives down, but Spiers hopes that whoever else bids has an interest in preservation.
That’s part of the reason why they’re trying to raise $US500,000 or even more – to make a bid on the Gawker archives, in addition to funding the new site. “I think the bids are going to be all over the place on this one,” Spiers said.
“I’ve been in digital publishing for about a decade, so I have a pretty good understanding of how much money it takes to run a lean digital publication,” Del told Business Insider when asked about how they landed on the $US500,000 target.
The Kickstarter is currently accepting donations. Possible rewards includes membership to the new Gawker, a launch party invite, an even special “commenter star” status for people who pledge $US10,000 or more.
Max Tani contributed to this report.