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March 1, 2010

Gawker Guessing Game

Surrendering to his readers' unquenchable thirst for "instant reference," Gawker Media baron Nick Denton shocked even the most insidery hacks a week and a half ago with the announcement that he was replacing editor Gabriel Snyder with Remy Stern, ex-Radar editor and founder of reference goldmine Cityfile.com. Cityfile came bundled with Stern, and has since been absorbed into Gawker. Snyder, who had been at Gawker for 18 months, saw traffic double under his tenure, to around four million visitors a month. According to New York Magazine's Daily Intel, Cityfile averages 150,000 visitors a month.

Blindsided, Snyder acknowledged "the history of Gawker Media careers shows that they tend to burn bright and fast." (Try bulletproofing that job). So, what happened? Just what is budding e-Rupert Murdoch Nick Denton up to? To speculate wildly, we enlisted the help of Aaron Gell, former Radar executive editor, president of the American Society of Shitcanned Media Elites (ASSME), and an erstwhile Media Circus participant.

Our first question: If reference is Denton's new game, why not just buy or license the Cityfile catalog and leave a successful enterprise intact? "It was a typically slick move for Denton," Gell tells Gelf. "I suspect what he and Remy did was simply spin what might have seemed like a negative story for both into something positive."

Indeed, Denton has been trumpeting the acquisition, his very first. "We'd rather be a consolidator than consolidatee," he explained on his send-off to Snyder. So, at what price did he snare his prize? "I doubt it was much, and perhaps nothing," says Gell.

"The truth seems to be that Cityfile, while an interesting site, never caught on and was ending its life as an independent web presence," Gell explains. Furthermore, he says, "despite being a great guy and talented journalist," Snyder didn't suit the Gawker aesthetic. So why make a big show of such a decidedly small-time deal? Funny you should ask: "Here's a way to solve both problems and let both Nick and Remy save face."

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