Offices were all a-Twitter late this morning after a rumor spread that Gawker’s Nick Denton and Business Insider’s Henry Blodget would announce a merger between Gawker and Business Insider when they took the stage at a media conference this afternoon.
At the 2:30 panel at Business Insider’s Ignition: Future of Digital conference, the two men addressed the rumors (which Mr. Denton had denied earlier in an email to The Observer)…sort of.
Actually, it was kind of hard to tell what exactly they were talking about, beyond vaguely criticizing each other’s content and Mr. Denton continuing to fan the flames of a different rumor about Business Insider and AOL.
Oh, and Mr. Denton explained Kinja.
Instead of giving you another take on the insidery conversation, we thought you might like to read it for yourselves. Warning: it’s a bit like a Twitter convo, except more verbose, and without avatars. Have fun:
Nick Denton: I don’t think that we make enough distinction between the good capitalists and the bad capitalists. You brag about all of them as being heroes based on what, raising money? Or flipping to some company that’s going to destroy them in the next six to twelve months, as would happen if you sold to AOL for instance? And [Gawker] would write about capitalists as if they’re all equally—
HB: Well draw this distinction about the good capitalists and the bad capitalists. Because you had this experience where you were an entrepreneur—
ND:—I was a bad capitalist.
HB: You were a bad capitalist and now you’re a good one. So talk about the difference.
ND: The first company I had was something called First Tuesday. It was an events business…People would want to come to this party, and we ended up getting funding, and then sold at at least a nominal valuation of about $16 million. And I’m deeply embarrassed by that. I’m embarrassed by the coverage, I’m embarrassed by my part in the coverage. I was part of this thing that was an embodiment of the bubble of our time…Since then I’ve been making amends.
HB: So articulate what bad capitalism is. Is it build to flip?
ND: Yeah. Short term, superficial, doing what investors think they want you to do based on what they read in Business Insider.
HB: [Clearly referencing the supposed merger] This is off to a good start.
ND: You know what I mean…BuzzFeed’s ambition is to build a big media company, and they’re very good. They’re very professional. But to build a company or to have an exit or to flip I don’t believe is sufficient motivation.
HB: And so which is BuzzFeed?
ND: If you take them at face value, they say they’re building a large media company to keep.
HB: And maybe they’ll sell for a billion dollars. Maybe it just means that the exit will be at a high price.
ND: I don’t think that’s a good way to build anything meaningful. If you start to think like that, if you start to think just about the money or commercial success, then you don’t really have any internal mission that keeps you going through tough times.
HB: So then what is your internal mission, if you’re not trying to build a big company, what are you trying to do?
ND: To expose. To expose everything.
HB: I mean come on. That’s fine. And you do a great job of that…But you’re also a businessman! And one of the things that’s great about Gawker Media is it’s a successful business! They come around saying ‘Aw digital media, it’ll never work, it’s ridiculous, it’s pennies, and they can’t make money.’ You make money, you survive, and then you invest the money, it’s good.
ND: One of the reasons why it did work is because we didn’t go into it saying we were going to make money. So you have to make money in order to pay bills. It’s a means to an end. The end can’t simply be to make money. Well it can be—you can probably have a mid-size exit—but you’re not going to really do anything that meaningful.
HB: So more about this merger.
ND: It’s not exactly—Let’s be real here. We’re calling it a merger for the sake of your ego.
HB: A collaboration. An acquisition…So Kinja. You built this platform. And you’re kind of turning Gawker into a platform, and this is something—
ND:—to expose everything.
HB: Okay. So how does this work. Is this like a mini Tumblr within Gawker?
ND: Do you remember Fucked Company?
HB: I do.
ND: So Fucked Company, for those who joined the game this cycle, Fucked Company was a website around, I guess its peak was around 2001, chronicled the decline, the explosion, the popping of the dot com model. And there was a lot of reader submissions, it was gossip submitted without any filter, without any real testing, authentication, it was a kind of… a disaster. And in amongst the misleading information and the poisonous gossip…it was the best place to find the truth about the companies of the time. I want to do that using Kinja, using this modest part of readership, in collaboration with our writers and editors, to expose.
HB: So it’s basically Tumblr.
ND: Well no, it’s not Tubmlr.
HB: What is it?!
ND: It’s a discussion system. We call it a collaborative publishing platform. The idea is, you can have an article, and a reader can submit a criticism of the article…they can ask questions of the author…but the process is collaborative. The testing, the criticism, the questions, the tips, the gossip, is [created] not simply by somebody who is calling up a journalist or IMing a journalist, it’s taking that process and putting that process out in public.
HB: So, a lot of this merger stuff is in the air…because I think people have been talking about Time Inc. and digital for a long time. One organization, many publications within it. You effectively built that with Gawker media.
HB: A couple years ago you were talking a lot about video. In fact I think remember one of the redesigns was to really feature video streaming. You had some shows that you were producing internally.
ND: We didn’t have any shows. I’ve always, I don’t care exactly what format it is…A slideshow, narrative, first person narrative, video, animated gif, they’re all forms of story-telling. Different things work for different kinds of stories.
ND: You guys are not that good at video. You may think you’re good but it really looks like poorly produced TV to me. And this session, this is being taped—
HB:—it is! It’s going to be very well watched.
ND: Well-watched by how many people? 5000 people?
HB: Probably more. Probably seven to ten thousand
ND: Not the scale that would be really very interesting to anyone who actually wants to get video advertising…
HB: Ten thousand people’s actually very interesting.
ND: [sarcastically] You’re great.
HB: If we should happen to be part of the same organization, I’m [going to] persuade you that in fact you should view the same way you view text.