Gawker Media to Hire an Executive Editor

Gawker Media logoGawker media is planning to hire an executive editor to oversee all its sites and “provide editorial direction and drive coverage of major stories,” Nick Denton announced in a memo to staff this afternoon. The company is also planning to hire a group managing editor to deal with personnel.

“That’s a division of responsibilities much like that in a newspaper,” Mr. Denton helpfully explained. The new positions are part of an effort to compete with well-funded companies.

“Hard to imagine, but 2015 is going to be even more intense than this year. Our editorial leadership will be up against pros like Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith and Vox’s Lockhart Steele—with a phalanx of VCs behind them,” Mr. Denton wrote in the email. “They will outspend us next year; but we can outplay both incumbents and cash-rich ventures, as we have in the past. Our talent selection and development, and our editorial plays, must be as shrewd and accomplished as the baseball management popularized by Moneyball.”

Joel Johnson, who was named editorial director last year, will continue to “provide the link between” the company’s journalism and software product development, including working on a mobile app project called Spark.

Mr. Denton will interview internal and external candidates in the coming weeks. Whoever is considered, we imagine an excitement about Kinja will help.

Full memo below:

Hard to imagine, but 2015 is going to be even more intense than this year. Our editorial leadership will be up against pros like Buzzfeed’s Ben Smith and Vox’s Lockhart Steele — with a phalanx of VCs behind them.

They will outspend us next year; but we can outplay both incumbents and cash-rich ventures, as we have in the past. Our talent selection and development, and our editorial plays, must be as shrewd and accomplished as the baseball management popularized by Moneyball.

In that, we have one great asset that no money can buy: an independent spirit and willingness to defy conventional wisdom.

To that end, we’re strengthening core management within Editorial and creating two new positions: Executive Editor, to provide editorial direction and drive coverage of major stories, and a Group Managing Editor handling personnel. (That’s a division of responsibilities much like that in a newspaper.)

Both the GME and the incoming Investigations Editor, more familiar to you as John Cook, will report to the Executive Editor, as will the EICs of Gawker, Gizmodo and the other sites. We trust the core of the new executive team will be in place in the new year.

It’s my hope that Joel will continue to provide the link between our journalism and our software product development.

The mobile app project — known in the product team as Spark — owes much to Joel’s insight into how blogging and commenting feed off each other. He’s key to the 2015 design project. And his writing on media ecosystems reconciled our advertising sales leadership to a software future, which is a really big deal. We need Joel’s mind, and we need it free of everyday distractions.

Interviews for the new Executive Editor position will start this week. The position will report to me. It is well compensated, commensurate with the responsibility, the motivation of the company’s largest department. Candidates will be asked how they intend to sustain our traffic momentum in 2015 — while producing the scoops and pungent opinion that have made the reputations of our eight flagship titles.

(By the way, November’s audience number is in, 76m in the US, up 19% on a year earlier. io9 has doubled in reach. Not bad! Oh, and for what it’s worth, we draw no less than a third of that elusive demographic, the Millennials that Vice pretends to speak to.)

There are already a couple of strong contenders in the mix. If there are other nominations, for candidates either internal or external, please send the names my way. Interviews will be conducted — swiftly — by me, Heather Dietrick and others. Once you’ve talked with Joel, I’ll be speaking with you in person to answer questions.

Gawker Media to Hire an Executive Editor