As editorial director, Brown will oversee the newsrooms and coverage of all G/O Media properties, which include Gizmodo, The Onion, The A.V. Club, Jezebel and Deadspin. Brown reports directly to CEO Jim Spanfeller.
In 2019, Spanfeller and private-equity firm Great Hill Partners acquired Gizmodo Media Group (previously part of Gawker Media) and The Onion from Univision. After a mass resignation of Deadspin’s staff in protest of the new management’s demand that staffers write only about sports, Spanfeller hired Jim Rich, former EIC of the New York Daily News, to run Deadspin. Rich then was promoted to editorial director of G/O Media — before he exited in mid-2021 over his displeasure with “interference” by Spanfeller and other top execs in editorial decisions, the New York Post reported.
Brown’s media-biz experience includes advisory stints for MedCity News, The Guardian, ABC News, National Public Radio, New York Magazine and TV Guide. Brown was founder and CEO of the News Project Inc., established to provide technology and services designed to make it easier for investors, philanthropists, journalists and others to operate digital news businesses. He also served as inaugural director of Montclair State University’s School of Communication and Media, as well as editor-in-chief of media industry magazine Channels, senior VP of Court TV, and MSNBC.com’s first editor-in-chief. At the Washington Post, Brown was a New York-based business reporter.
“Merrill’s deep experience across the media spectrum make him an invaluable addition to the G/O Media family,” Spanfeller said in a statement. “His expertise will take our strong editorial product to even greater heights.”
In a statement provided by G/O Media, Brown said, “I’m thrilled to be joining such a vibrant company that is leading in the digital space. I look forward to helping the organization create great coverage of vitally important topics and driving growth while maintaining the distinctive and powerful voices of each site.”
Brown also has served as a board member at more than a dozen companies and nonprofit organizations, including the International Women’s Media Foundation, Now Public and the City University of New York’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. Brown is co-founder of the Online News Association and founding editorial director of News21, a university journalism initiative.
New York-based G/O Media claims it reaches more than 100 million unique visitors per month, including via third parties in its extended network. Its publications are Gizmodo; The A.V. Club; The Onion; Deadspin; Jezebel; Jalopnik (car culture); Kotaku (gaming); Lifehacker (lifestyle); The Takeout (food and drink); The Root (Black news and culture); Quartz (business); and The Inventory (ecommerce).