SBJ/September 26 - October 2, 2005/Other News
Blog innovator brings its own spin to sports
Published September 26, 2005
New York-based Gawker Media, which has skewered most of the political, journalism and entertainment elite, is now trying its hand at sports with its 14th blog, Deadspin.
The popular blogging outfit, whose sites such as Wonkette.com, Gawker.com and Gizmodo.com draw millions of visitors a month, is operating Deadspin in the same freewheeling spirit as its sister blogs. Launched on Sept. 8 and edited by Will Leitch, former writer with The Sporting News and New York Times Magazine, Deadspin aims to cover the intersection of sports and culture, and lampoon the hypocrisy and affectation it finds.
“The big places, ESPN and so forth, they have their place,” Leitch said, “but they’re so tied to what they cover, and there are stories out there that the average fan wants to see and won’t in those places. Since I don’t have a rights deal with the NFL, I don’t have to worry about what I do damaging that deal.”
In a recent post typical to Deadspin’s acerbic style, Leitch lambasted The Sporting News, one of his former employers, for striking a deal to create new sports-themed restaurants in Holiday Inn hotels that a press release said was geared toward Generation X consumers. Not only is the venture years behind similar efforts from ESPN, Fox Sports and others, but Leitch also was quick to point out that neither brand exactly has a youthful edge.
“When you’re talking ‘Generation X’ and you’re talking ‘techno-savvy,’ and you’re talking ‘buzz, baby’... you’re talking Holiday Inn and you’re talking The Sporting News,” he wrote sarcastically, adding that The Sporting News was a magazine users’ “grandparents” read.
He ended with this back-handed “apology to the PR guy” who sent the release: “We thought you were a reader sending us this press release to make fun of, and responded back with ‘Ha. That’s hysterical.’ We can understand your confusion. Sorry. Heh.”
Like other Gawker sites, Deadspin works solely off an advertising model, and initial sponsors include Schick and Bodog.com. Gawker Media itself runs a lean, profitable enterprise, in part through keeping overhead low and allowing blog editors to work from home.
Traffic to Deadspin is averaging about 8,000 page views a day, far below the six-digit sums of daily page views generated by other Gawker Media blogs. But company officials are aiming for a quick run-up after about six months of operation.
Though not a household, mainstream name, Gawker Media has steadily grown in influence in its nearly four years of existence. Its irreverence belies an insider tone that unearths the tawdry and tantalizing, serving it up for a hip audience that prides itself on being in the know. The political blog Wonkette.com was where the public first learned of Jessica Cutler, the Capitol Hill staffer who traded money for sexual favors with politicians.
Gawker.com, which covers New York media and celebrities, similarly offers a loose, gossipy style that will serve as a model for Deadspin.
But whether Deadspin truly becomes an influential read, even among ordinary fans, remains an open question.
“Gawker is really trying to be this sort of boutique publisher of blogs,” said Chuck Todd, editor of The Hotline, a well-known Washington political tip sheet. “Wonkette is so far left, and so narrow and so raunchy that I don’t get the sense they’re really influencing the message. But it brings in young readers, which is attractive to advertisers. The same sort of thing may be going on with Deadspin.”
He said he was not sure exactly where Deadspin will find its niche.
“At the end of the day, how is this different from ESPN’s Page 2?” he asked. “Or how will they work in this space without ESPN eventually taking it over?”