But 12-year-old Gawker Media has a bigger problem: It’s not big enough, at least at a time when its VC-addled competitors like BuzzFeed, Vice, Business Insider and Mashable keep putting up eye-popping audience numbers. Gawker has bootstrapped from the start, but at a cost. It stood at 55.4 million uniques in June, up 7 percent over a year ago. That’s OK, but Mashable soared 53 percent in the same period and Business Insider grew 52 percent. It’s also short of Gawker’s goal to hit 80 million uniques last year, and traffic to the Gawker flagship site itself has declined.
CEO Nick Denton said Gawker Media is comfortably above the 50 million monthly uniques cutoff demanded by many advertisers, which is nothing to sneeze at. “I think we deserve some credit,” he said. “Without any infusion of cash, we have managed to build a sizable media company with about the same scale as Vox.”
Fair or not, that makes the site land with a thud in the “niche” bucket for many scale-obsessed ad buyers, with the added baggage of brand-safety issues.
“There are buyers that tell you as part of their methodologies, they have those thresholds,” said Eric Bader, CMO at RadiumOne, a digital media platform and former ad agency executive. “That is the dividing line between the niche sites and the generalist sites. It’s a little bit of a misleading number, because [Gawker’s] individual subsites are pretty polarized. If you unpack that, there are some that wouldn’t be eligible for certain brands.”
When Gawker pulled a controversial post last week, it focused attention on how the blog’s racy brand of journalism may be at odds with its growth ambitions.