The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

What Goes Up…

Back to blogging meta, I guess. I don’t know what’s going on up there at the pinnacle of blogging. From where I sit, it’s impossible to see beyond the clouds to the peak. But something’s going on. First there was blog related stress and heart attacks at GigaOm. Now the New York Times is again covering the travails of top tier bloggers, this time with an article suggesting that Gawker may have “jumped the shark.”

“THE ideal Gawker item,” Nick Denton, the owner of Gawker Media, wrote in an instant message last month to a prospective hire, “is something triggered by a quote at a party, or an incident, or a story somewhere else and serves to expose hypocrisy, or turn conventional wisdom on its head.

“And it’s 100 words long.

“200 max.

“Any good idea can be expressed at that length.”

A few weeks later on Gawker.com, the news-media gossip Web site that is the flagship of Mr. Denton’s online publishing empire, he spent 339 words explaining changes at the site, including his decision to take over as managing editor after three senior bloggers had quit, and the hiring of Richard Morgan to cover television.

One day later, on Jan. 3, Mr. Morgan also quit. In an interview, he said that Mr. Denton, in his fixation with attracting new readers, was letting the site degenerate.

The next day a new Gawker blogger assigned to cover pop culture posted 406 words summarizing some of the most popular scatological sex videos on the Web, with links.

Within minutes, some longtime readers were posting comments asking, in a reference to the cliché that has come to mean something or someone has lost touch with its roots and has no more cultural relevance, whether Gawker had jumped the shark.

100 words? Well, that just one more reason I’ll never write for Gawker. But if you read beyond the first 200 words the article gets really interesting when it suggests that Gawker slipped into “Perez Hilton mode” and thus began it’s decline.

N+1, a culture journal, followed with a thoroughly researched essay noting how Gawker’s voice has changed with successive editors, descending from a homespun blog that smartly sniped about editors like Tina Brown and Anna Wintour, whose prominence arguably opened them to sarcastic comment, to its current state as a cruel behemoth, eviscerating low-level editors and people’s children.

…One example of the site’s influence occurred in July when Gawker published an e-mail message sent by the novelist Robert Olen Butler to his graduate students, explaining his feelings about his wife leaving him for Ted Turner. The story quickly migrated to the mainstream, appearing within days in newspapers from Ireland to Australia.

But in the last two months of 2007, overall traffic fell, to about 8 million in December from more than 11 million page views in October. There had not been similar plunges in any previous November or December.

Felix Salmon, who writes a blog for the business magazine Portfolio and who has covered Gawker for years, is among those who argue that the eyeballs Gawker has lost are those it once prized most highly.

Granted, Gawker’s page views on its worst day probably beat this blog’s page views in its entire existence. But it’s interesting to note that even an 800 lb. gorilla like Gawker can lose its footing, and even slip little. Maybe even reassuring, if one can be allowed a tiny bit of schadenfreude. Besides, even if Gawker collapsed to, say, the middle of the top 200, another behemoth would simply rise to take its place.

And then? Well, apparently we just wait.

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