When Jason Calacanis launched Weblogs, Inc., last fall, Gawker Media’s snarky blogmaster, Nick Denton, dismissed his new competitor as an amped-up, dot-com-era throwback. For more than a year, Denton’s Gawker.com gossip site has been a media must-read. But now it seems Calacanis may be threatening his niche by offering his writers what Denton won’t: equity.
Calacanis—the former Silicon Alley Reporter guru turned “talent advocate”—declares, “You can’t say ‘Work with me for as little as possible; I’ll build a valuable brand you won’t have a share in.’ Nick wants to own all of it, so his writers are leaving.”
He’s right. Two weeks ago, Peter Rojas, editor of Gizmodo.com, Gawker’s tech blog, defected to partner in Calacanis’s tech site, Engadget.com.
To hear Calacanis tell it, as popular blogs increase in value, investors can afford to commit to their writers. “DailyCandy sold for $3.5 million to $4 million,” he explains. “Within five years, the top blogs will become worth as much as $5 million.” By having rising-star writers in place, Weblogs, Inc., would be able to focus on expanding its current lineup of 25 blogs to a whopping 500 by late 2006.
Denton, however, maintains that “no one’s going to get rich off blogging any time soon,” and defends his revolving-door policy as par for the course. “You pick the right writer, and they eventually leaveÂ—just as with mainstream publications,” he says. “Blogs have become a terrific way to build a profile and then move on.” Presumably, he isn’t surprised that ultracatty Gawker.com editor Choire Sicha seems to be distancing himself from the site, now describing himself in print as a writer for the Observer. “I’m in an awkward position,” stuttered Sicha.
Calacanis insists he’s got a short list of journalists he’ll incite to revolt before 2004’s close. “In the next few years, a top writer from the Times will leave and work for Weblogs, Inc.,” he says. “Because he wants ownership. Wait and see.”