Following the announcement that Gawker.com would be shut down permanently, Max Read, former editor in chief of Gawker, penned an article for the the New York Magazine titled “Did I kill Gawker”. In the article, Max highlights some of the phenomena that he believes caused Gawker’s downfall. He named himself, Nick Denton, Gawker’s CEO, A.J. Daulerio, the journalist who published Hulk Hogan’s sex tape, Peter Thiel, who funded Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker and Gamergate, the online consumer revolt.
Max dedicated an entire section of his article to talking about Gamergate. He remained adamant that Gamergate was about harassment and abuse of women, but admitted that the damage the movement had done to Gawker was irreversible and menacing.
“As Gawker was imploding in the summer of 2015, a group of teenage video-game enthusiasts was throwing gasoline on the already-raging fire. These were the Gamergaters.Of all the enemies Gawker had made over the years — in New York media, in Silicon Valley, in Hollywood — none were more effective than the Gamergaters. Gamergate, a leaderless online movement dedicated to enforcing its own unique vision of “ethics in journalism,” had first taken up with Gawker Media the summer before, in 2014.”
He admitted that he had underestimated Gamergate, and that was his ultimate undoing.
“What I’d missed about Gamergate was that they were gamers — they had spent years developing a tolerance for highly repetitive tasks. Like, say, contacting major advertisers. On Reddit, a campaign was launched to contact every advertiser Gamergaters could find on Gawker’s site — and not just the marketing departments of advertisers like Adobe and BMW, but specific executives. If you can bug a chief marketing officer, it doesn’t matter that your complaints are disingenuous: He just wants to stop being annoyed.”
He went on to explain that Gamergate’s war with Gawker first begun when he failed to discipline Gawker reporter Sam Biddle for pro-bullying comments towards gamers, leading Gamergate to contact advertisers on the site, which caused “crisis” at the company.
“And so Gawker went into full-on crisis mode. Our chief revenue officer flew to Chicago to meet shaky clients; someone I hadn’t spoken with since high school Facebook-messaged me to let me know that her employer, L.L.Bean, a Gawker advertiser, was considering pulling its ads. Nick asked me to draft a non-apology apology — a clarification, basically, that we did not, institutionally, support bullying. Sam was compelled to tweet an apology. Joel, then the executive editor, published on Gawker, over the objections of the editors, another clarification. I then published, without Joel’s knowledge, an apology for the apology. Perhaps tellingly, it was the first time I’d ever really been confronted with the business side of Gawker besides small talk at parties.
Then it all went away. Gawker had taken a hit — thousands of dollars of advertising gone, at least. But in the weeks we’d been hemorrhaging advertisers and goodwill, stories in the New York Times and other outlets — the real media—and a segment on The Colbert Report made it clear that the Gamergaters were the bad guys in this case, not us. The sites went back to normal.
But of course it didn’t go away. Gamergate proved the power of well-organized reactionaries to threaten Gawker’s well-being. And when Gawker really went too far — far enough that even our regular defenders in the media wouldn’t step up to speak for us — Gamergate was there, in the background, turning every crisis up a notch or two and making continued existence impossible.”
Read resigned from Gawker in July of 2015.