Tech bubbles, ad revenue and Twitter — five questions with Nick Denton

Gawker Media founder Nick Denton has some controversial ideas about what online media need to do, including the idea that the conversation around a story should be the primary focus rather than the story itself — as he described in a recent interview with us at his office in SoHo. In that same interview, Denton offered his thoughts on a range of other topics, such as whether we are in a technology bubble, the decline of Facebook and Twitter as conversational media, and whether he has any interest in selling his digital empire. Here are some edited excerpts of his comments on those and other subjects.

Why tech is boring now:

GigaOM: “You don’t really pay any attention to the tech scene?”

Denton: “No — the tech world is particularly obnoxious at the moment.”

GOM: “Because we are in a bubble?”

Denton: “Yeah. I do remember enjoying it more in 2003 and 2004, when it seemed as if the only people who were doing anything were the diehards.”

GOM: “You like the underdog.”

Denton: “Yeah. It’s Henry the Fifth, Shakespeare — outnumbered, brave, fearless. Going to their deaths or glory, one or the other. That has more poetry to it than a bunch of failed investment bankers that reconstitute themselves as app makers, or funders of app makers.”


The most interesting people in tech:

GigaOM: “Who do you pay attention to when it comes to tech or online media?”

Denton: “I always watch what Evan [Williams] is doing, because I’m obsessed by Internet discussions, and how bad they are, and how much better they could be. Josh [Miller] at Branch is interesting [Branch has been funded by Williams’ Obvious Corp and does hosted invitation-only discussions].


What’s wrong with Twitter and Facebook:

GigaOM: “Aren’t social networks like Twitter and Facebook good for discussions? Isn’t that what social media is for?”

Denton: “Twitter has really become a repository for the bitterness and toxicity that used to be the defining feature of Internet comments. A lot of the disaffected wannabes and will-never-be’s have gone from Internet comments through to Twitter — and Facebook, particularly since they’ve opened up subscriptions. If the better people are on Twitter, then the dumb people are on Facebook.”

GOM: “But can’t you have a conversation on Twitter?”

Denton: “It’s not really a dialogue at all. It’s just a bunch of people shouting at each other. Twitter feels like that. There’s a bunch of people throwing one liners at each other.”


The future of digital advertising:

GigaOM: “Gawker hasn’t really experimented with subscriptions or other models for revenue. Do you have any interest in anything other than advertising?”

Denton: “No.”

GOM: “Is that because you don’t think they will work?”

Denton: “No, it’s because I’m lazy and I like to focus on one thing at a time. I’m actually much more interested in what I would call conversational marketing. That is the advertising that I would buy. The ability to have a conversation with — not necessarily with end customers, but people online who are truly going to influence end customers. And this is probably not the social media elite.”

GOM: “But everyone us saying advertising is dead, media needs to find other revenue models. Do you disagree?”

Denton: “We do fine out of advertising. We have high quality, high income…”

GOM: “Are those ad revenues growing?”

Denton: “Yeah, of course.”

GOM: “Rapidly?”

Denton: “Pretty rapidly, yes. We’ve been profitable for years.”

GOM: “And no interest in other revenue opportunities?”

Denton: “What are we good at? We are great at publishing, and we are great and will be great at creating these special environments [for conversation.] We have the tone of the web. Editorial expertise and technology are the things that marks us out. Clients who are often trying to become publishers themselves, we should be providing them with a publishing platform, publishing services and publishing expertise and publishing consultancy.”


Selling Gawker:

GigaOM: “What does the future of Gawker look like? Have you thought about selling?

Denton: “No. I actually haven’t been asked the selling question for a long time.”

GOM: “It’s a possibility, no?”

Denton: “No.”

GOM: “Not at all? Ever? Not even if Mark Zuckerberg called you up and offered you a billion dollars?”

Denton: “No.”

Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Flickr user Matt Haughey