November 18, 2015 Last Updated 7:33 am

Gawker shifts towards politics, kills off Valleywag blog; Condé Nast faces fine over GQ article

Morning Brief: Nick Denton hopes shifting Gawker towards US politics will revive web brand, while many publishers wait to see if the AMA’s call to end direct-to-consumer drug ads gains traction

The big media story yesterday was that Gawker is “retooling” as a political site. The real story is more that Gawker felt the need to do this. Tech and celebrity media is certainly saturated, but then again, so is the world of politics.

Gawker-screen“In today’s crowded and confusing digital media world, you should focus on your strengths and have a clear message for your audience,” Gawker founder Nick Denton wrote in a staff memo. “That’s especially true for a self-funded digital media company like Gawker Media Group, alone among our peers in having achieved substantial audience scale without outside capital.”

With the reorganization, Gawker will be left with the following website brands, as defined by Denton:

Gone will be Morning After, Valleywag and Defamer.

“Is there any doubt that the 2016 US presidential election campaign, a contest between reality-defying fabulists and the last representatives of two exhausted political dynasties, will provide rich new opportunities for sensation and satire?” Denton wrote in explaining the move.

To be honest, I rarely find myself on any of the Gawker websites – and when I do, I find no reason to return on my own or explore more. The formula is so, well, tired and predictable.

Gawker is the website that recently outed the CFO of a major magazine publishing company, with several staffers resigning or accepting buyouts after the company decided to pull the story.

The news that the American Medical Association is advocating that pharmaceutical companies be banned from direct-to-consumer drug advertising is only getting a little attention. But it will be big news for publishers should the idea gain traction.

My guess is that if a poll were conducted most consumers would be in favor of the move – there is a limit to the number of ED commercials one can watch. (After hours one needs to seek medical attention.)

Magazines were hit hard when the ban on cigarette advertising went into effect. Imagine the effect pulling drug ads would have on both TV and magazine revenue.

Condé Nast is facing a large fine after a panel of UK judges ruled that an article written by Michael Wolff that appeared in GQ on the Murdoch phone hacking scandal created “a substantial risk” that the trials of Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson would be impeded.

GQUK-cover-200The article in question was eventually pulled from the UK edition of the magazine.

The magazine should have known better, as GQ editor Dylan Jones initially thought it best to publish that article after the end of the trial, but was assured “after taking legal advice” that they were safe to publish, according to the Guardian. But that may have been true in the US, but the UK is certainly different.

In the end, Brooks got off, got promoted, and the Murdoch team is back at it, safe in the knowledge they have their guy in #10 Downing Street.

Meanwhile, Wolff’s article will likely costs GQ £10,000. As the open rate for a full page ad in the magazine is $192,027, I doubt anyone is crying in their beer today.

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