Gawker Media merging Gizmodo and io9 teams into a tech super-hub

Gawker Media said Thursday it is combining its tech-focused blogs — Gizmodo, which tends to focus on hardware, and the more entertainment-oriented io9, as well as several smaller blogs like Paleofuture — into a single unit run by current io9 editor Annalee Newitz. The company has a history of shuffling its assets by mothballing or even killing off blogs when they aren’t working, and Denton said the latest move is driven by the need to present a united front in a tech-media market that has become significantly more competitive.

[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”The table stakes have gotten higher, with Fusion and Buzzfeed’s investments. We couldn’t afford the duplication of effort. And a combined team, working under an inspired leader, should be capable of some great things.”[/blockquote]

The new venture is being referred to as the Future Initiative, and will see some editors and writers working for multiple blogs within the tech unit, as well as collaborating across the different blogs on story packages or big features. Newitz said in a blog post the new venture is designed to generate more “original reporting, must-read explainers and smart analysis.” As she put it:

[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”2015 is going to be a year for stories with depth. I want everyone in the Future Initiative working on longer, reported articles. That means getting out of the news hype cycle to do explainers on a regular basis, giving our readers and communities the fundamentals they need to understand the rapid pace of innovation.”[/blockquote]

Over the past year or so, the tech-media market has become more competitive than it has been for some time, as The Verge from Vox Media has become a much more significant presence, and BuzzFeed has been expanding — including the recent launch of a tech bureau based in San Francisco — and newer players such as Fusion and Vice have started covering the sector. Both Vox and BuzzFeed have also raised substantial amounts of venture capital to fund their expansion, with BuzzFeed’s latest round valuing the company at about $800 million.

Gizmodo editor leaving

The various Gawker blogs that are part of the new tech unit will still have their own sites, with io9 being run by Charlie Jane Anders, but all of the staff — which adds up to more than 35 writers and editors, as well as a number of freelancers — will report to Newitz. Current Gizmodo editor Brian Barrett was offered a different job as part of the tech team, but has decided to leave the company, although “we hope not for too long,” Denton said in an IM interview. Barrett said on Twitter he is launching a new site for The Awl.

Newitz said in her introductory blog post that in addition to depth and analysis, she expects the team behind the Future Initiative to take on stories that other media outlets would be afraid to touch because they might offend their venture-capital backers or the large media conglomerate of which they are a part:

[blockquote person=”” attribution=””]”I also want us to hit stories that are hard for other media outlets to cover. We’re an independent media source; we’re not owned by some VC or media megacorp. I want us to investigate everything from the real conditions of tech workers and piracy online, to jailbreaking gadgets, spy shit, and anything else that’s too hot for places like Buzzfeed or Fusion to handle.”[/blockquote]

According to online traffic-measurement firm comScore, Gizmodo has an audience of almost 13 million monthly unique visitors and io9’s audience is over 9 million per month, meaning the combined entity could have a readership as high as 22 million a month (although there is likely some overlap between the two). That would make Gawker’s tech hub twice as large as Wired — which comScore estimates at 10.4 million per month — and significantly larger than The Verge, which has an estimated audience of 13 million.