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Talk is Cheap, Flattery Priceless


Readers, please excuse me as I veer – slightly – off topic to discuss a bit of business that’s come to my attention. It’s time, once again, to engage in a bit of sorting out among us competitive on-line publishers and give Gawker founder Naughty Nicky Denton a much-needed spanking.
Seen the redesign of Gawker Media’s attempt to cover Silicon Valley, ValleyWag? If you should wander over there, you may be struck, as I was, by a few things. First, they’re selling a few more ads this week than they have in the past: There are fewer house-ads, anyway.
Two, the damn thing looks a lot like our old site right on down to the Courier typeface. We still use Courier, of course, but we’ve tinkered with it just a teeny bit – as Gawker did overnight will undoubtedly do as it learns its lesson – to make it more readable. So we’re gracefully accepting on that score, the most sincere form of flattery: Imitation. They’re trying to look like us! How sweet.
That’s not the only reason we’re blushing with modest satisfaction. The “new” Valleywag, says Denton, is going to write about money, not so much about sex. And it’s going to write about Silicon Valley CEOs and other movers and shakers, not so much about “the little people” who just happen to have their private lives caught on tape. And that nice Nick Douglas who helped start the column is looking for a job.
Just a little repositioning? Maybe. But you know things are really in bad shape when Mr. Denton himself – a man who swore off San Francisco, Silicon Valley and the West Coast generally – decides to hang around the small backward village of San Francisco until he finds someone to run ValleyWag.
It’s all sooooooooo flattering. But I’m afraid I’ll have to demur on that public offer of a job, Nicky. It’s almost exactly 10 years since I sat down and wrote a memo outlining the purpose of my Silicon Valley column “Talk is Cheap.” That memo (copies available on request) began very simply: “This column is about money.” That you struggled to that conclusion over the weekend is not a huge surprise.
Of course, all this gives me an excuse to talk about how well we’re doing here at Spot-on. Since it launched a year ago, Spot-on has seen its traffic quadruple – that’s without resorting to porn videos. We have tripled the number of writers with more on the way. Our business focus – to provide larger outlets with smart commentary and good writing on a range of political, social and cultural affairs – is moving steadily and surely in the right direction as our quality editorial attracts customers, readers and investors. In the next few weeks we’ll be announcing deals that will take our writers well beyond this site to outlets much larger than anything Gawker – with its pathological fear of outside investment and its apparently faltering dependance on ad revenue – can reach. Being respectable isn’t easy – people sneer and call us “small” – but we’re out to build a business, not cash in on a fad.
So good luck finding another writer to do your money-first, sex-when-necessary bidding, Nicky. It’s not going to be easy. I know. I set the bar. It’ll be fun to see if you can find someone tall enough to reach it.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 3:09 PM | Permalink

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