Bustle Digital Shelves Gawker Relaunch, Lays Off Site’s Staff

Courtesy of Bustle Digital Group

Gawker.com will remain in limbo: The reboot of the news and gossip site, now three years dormant, will not be going forward as planned, at least for now.

Bustle Digital Group, whose founder and CEO Bryan Goldberg (pictured above) bought the assets of Gawker in a bankruptcy auction last year, said it has canceled the planned September relaunch of the notoriously snarky property and laid off the staff that was hired to run it.

“We are postponing the Gawker relaunch,” Bustle Digital Group said in a statement. “For now, we are focusing company resources and efforts on our most recent acquisitions, Mic, The Outline, Nylon and Inverse.”

News of BDG’s plans to table the relaunch of Gawker were first reported by the New York Post.

Gawker staffers who have been let go include editor-in-chief Dan Peres (former EIC of Details), editorial director Carson Griffith and publisher Amanda Hale, who previously was chief revenue officer of Joshua Topolsky’s The Outline (which BDG bought earlier this year). Two writers hired by Gawker — Maya Kosoff and Anna Breslaw — quit in January over what they said were offensive comments made by Griffith (and Goldberg’s unresponsiveness to their complaints).

Goldberg was the winning bidder for Gawker.com a year ago, paying $1.35 million for the site, which has been inactive since August 2016. The deal included an archive of nearly 200,000 articles from Gawker, whose tagline was “Today’s gossip is tomorrow’s news.” In a memo to BDG staff last fall, Goldberg said, “We won’t recreate Gawker exactly as it was, but we will build upon Gawker’s legacy and triumphs — and learn from its missteps.”

In 2016, Nick Denton’s Gawker Media was driven to file for bankruptcy and sell six of its websites to Univision Communications for $135 million — excluding Gawker.com — after it was targeted by lawsuits funded by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. (Univision sold those sites, known as Gizmodo Media Group, along with The Onion to a private-equity backed G/O Media in April.) Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, had been angry about an old Gawker story that reported he was gay. The Thiel-backed litigation included wrestler Hulk Hogan’s invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against Gawker over a video the website posted showing the wrestler having sex with his ex-friend’s wife; a jury awarded Hogan $140 million in damages in the case.

Goldberg’s purchase of the Gawker.com assets was part of his larger roll-up strategy to build a large-scale digital media company by combining smaller and/or distressed properties into Bustle Digital Group. Founded in 2013, BDG has made eight acquisitions to date. This year, it has acquired Inverse, The Outline, and Nylon, after buying up Mic, Gawker, Elite Daily, Flavorpill, and The Zoe Report, adding them to its original brands Bustle and Romper.

Separately, on Monday, Nylon editor-in-chief Gabrielle Korn announced in a letter published on the site that she would be resigning in the wake of BDG’s takeover of the fashion and culture publication. “I’ve weighed my options carefully, and the company’s acquisition feels like a natural conclusion to what has been a life-changing five years,” Korn wrote.