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Media Meltdowns

Bryan Goldberg Becomes Latest Rich Asshole To Kill Gawker

Bryan Goldberg is the big fancy car boy
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for W Magazine

Bryan Goldberg, the owner of BDG, the digital media company comprising websites like Inverse, Bustle, Elite Daily, Mic, and Gawker, announced Wednesday that he would be laying off eight percent of its workforce (between 60 and 70 people), including the entire staff of Gawker, which would be shutting down—again.

Goldberg, the lady whisperer who epically paid $1.4 million for one of Napoleon's hats in 2021 and who should be best known for posting on Facebook about immigrant birth rates, the scourge of affirmative action, and his detailed plans to ship homeless people to rural areas, said in an email announcing the layoffs that "we have to prioritize our better monetized sites."

Goldberg bought Gawker's name and archives in 2018 for a reported $1.35 million after billionaire and frequent Gawker target Peter Thiel finally succeeded in his years-long effort to bankrupt the site. Goldberg tried to relaunch Gawker the following year, but the effort immediately blew up in his face after it came out that his newly hired editorial director, Carson Griffith, had posted bigoted, racist thoughts on her Twitter account and had behaved inappropriately to her new coworkers. He tried again in 2021, this time launching it under former real-Gawker editor Leah Finnegan. The site became known as place for funny writing, good interviews, and incisive criticism.

Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation told me that staffers had expected to have at least a few more months at the site, as Goldberg had given Gawker a two-year runway to get off the ground before he expected it to start making money (Goldberg did not respond to a request for comment). But, they also said no one was altogether shocked by today's news. They said Gawker's freelance budget had already been slashed recently and, as one person put it, Goldberg had been "crying about the economy for months." Sources said Goldberg also abruptly canceled a meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, with the BDG union contract bargaining committee. The union is currently negotiating severance for full-time employees.

Writer Sarah Hagi, who was a contributing writer for Gawker, said there had been efforts to monetize the site. For example, she said Gawker had started creating editorial packages, like the recent series about comedy, in order to lure advertisers.

"If you told me yesterday, 'You'll wake up tomorrow and Gawker will be shut down,' I would have believed it only because that's what happens, but not because there were any signs of it happening," she said.

Maybe Goldberg believed Gawker would never be a cash cow. Or maybe, as several people close to the situation have speculated, he finally realized that owning this version of Gawker would never bring him the validation he so desperately sought by buying the website in the first place.

Whatever the reason, Goldberg did what media owners do, and now yet another home for thoughtful writing and criticism is gone.

"The time I spent there was very transformative because it really was like this little bit of hope that [...] we could just write the things we want on the internet and people would read it," Hagi said. "We were able to just be fun and funny and not be restricted to any sort of parameters because we had a boss who believed in us and our abilities. And it's scary to know that that's not something that really seems possible."

As for Goldberg?

"I hate his guts," she said. "I wish him nothing but the worst."

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