Ex-Gawker Staff Launch Kickstarter to Ensure Site’s Post-Hulk Hogan Future

Hulk Hogan may not have knocked out Gawker. Tampa Bay Times/Pool

Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel couldn’t keep Gawker down for long.

A group of former Gawker employees launched a Kickstarter today to save the site. Their goal is to purchase and relaunch the now-bankrupt blog, which ceased publication last year after losing a lawsuit brought by the wrestler and secretly bankrolled by venture capitalist Thiel.

The crowdfunding campaign, which runs through January 8, is seeking $500,000 to bring Gawker back online. So far, it has raised about $22,000.

James Del, a former vice president of programming at Gawker Media, is organizing the Kickstarter. He told Observer that he first mentioned the idea to two former Gawker employees at a bar in August, and that many other site alumni had gotten involved in the past four months.

“The response was great, and it was clearly something we had to do,” Del, who is now publisher and chief revenue officer at science site Futurism, said in an email.

If Del’s group succeeds in acquiring Gawker, the site would be run by an eponymous nonprofit foundation and funded by membership dues. The money from readers would pay Gawker’s editor, writers, administrators and lawyers. Best of all, the site would have no advertising or paywall.

“It’s not great from a ‘get rich’ perspective, but if the goal is to move money from donations into the pockets of people who make important work, it’s really a solid, proven model,” Del said.

Indeed, anyone who makes a one-time $50 donation to Gawker’s Kickstarter will receive an “early bird” inaugural membership if the campaign succeeds. Del said this deal in particular was a bargain, because when the site launches it will likely have a monthly subscription model.

The Gawker trial’s verdict stipulated that the new owner of the site would have the authority to delete articles from the site. However, Del said his team would aim to restore the full archive.

Gawker founder Nick Denton is not a part of Del’s campaign, because as part of his settlement with Hogan he can’t return to Gawker without the wrestler’s consent. Hogan would also receive 45 percent of the proceeds from any sale of Gawker. The rest of the money would go to equity stakeholders in Gawker, including Del.

Even with the Kickstarter, the Gawker staff’s bid isn’t a sure thing, because other big names have expressed interest in owning the site. Thiel himself has said he wants the chance to bid, even though Gawker still has potential legal claims against him. The venture capitalist funded Hogan’s sex tape lawsuit against Gawker because the site outed him as gay in 2007, which he said violated his privacy.

Del and his team aren’t intimidated by Thiel, however. If their bid falls through, they plan to launch another news and gossip site that would capture the “Gawker ethos.”

“We plan to move forward regardless, so the more money we raise the better funded the new site will be,” Del said.

More than anything, Del said the team behind the Kickstarter wanted Gawker to be part of the online conversation again.

“We’ve missed the hell out of Gawker this past year and we think it’s the perfect time to bring it back,” he said.

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