Not like this
October 10, 2019 8:52 AM   Subscribe

G/O Media to shutter Splinter effective immediately.

From the Digiday link:

“While the memo said it will not result in any reduction in the number of editorial roles at G/O Media, one staffer tweeted Thursday morning that she will be getting laid off. Freelance contributors were let go as well. A spokesperson said that laid off staffers will be given opportunities to apply for open positions within G/O Media.”

With the continued departure of staff, an amazing look into what it’s like to have your workplace gutted out from under you (This is How Things Work at G/O Media) published at the beginning of August followed by the closing of the Special Projects Desk, now Splinter is gone, too.
posted by Ghidorah (55 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
A tweet from Hamilton Nolan:

For the first time in a decade I’m on the job market.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:56 AM on October 10, 2019 [1 favorite]


Goddamnit!! I enjoy The A.V. Club, Deadspin, Jalopnik, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, Kotaku, The Root, Jezebel, The Takeout, Clickhole and the Onion. All of the different parts of the G/O Media site. It's one of my daily goto pages. I consume a lot of information and I've made so many interesting posts about topics they've covered and reported on.

Fuck.
posted by Fizz at 8:59 AM on October 10, 2019 [11 favorites]


Honestly not sure how any of the former Gawker sites are even alive anymore, given all the rancid shit that has gone down.

The really fucked up thing is that the sleazes who bought these sites, along with the folks who bought SI, seem to be devoted to building a form of SEO bullshit that doesn't even work anymore. The whole thing is weirdly dated.
posted by selfnoise at 9:03 AM on October 10, 2019 [9 favorites]


Naturally, Splinter itself had the best take on the industry that would eventually destroy it:

If you have seen the movie Goodfellas, you may recall the scene where the mob takes over a bar: they run up bills on the company’s credit, rob the place blind, and then, when they’ve gotten as much as they can, burn the place down and walk away. That is only a very slight exaggeration of the real business model of private equity.

Former Deadspin editor Megan Greenwell also had a great summary of the idiocy that drove her from the company and now has shuttered Splinter:

The real and less romantic story is this: The journalists at Deadspin and its sister sites, like most journalists I know, are eager to do work that makes money; we are even willing to compromise for it, knowing that our jobs and futures rest on it. An ever-growing number of media owners, meanwhile, are so exceedingly unwilling to reckon with the particulars of their own business that they refuse to accept our eagerness to help them make money. They’re speaking a language no one else does, proud of their own inability not just to not fail, but to not understand the terms on which they’re failing. The tragedy of digital media isn’t that it’s run by ruthless, profiteering guys in ill-fitting suits; it’s that the people posing as the experts know less about how to make money than their employees, to whom they won’t listen.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:06 AM on October 10, 2019 [52 favorites]


I remember Splinter used to be a hotbed of Bernie Bro (and Cool Bernie Girl)-ism, and they even went through a commenter purge a while back; only the sufficiently obsequious were un-grayed. (Kinja commenting is a fustercluck anyway.) I thought things vastly improved when they got rid of Nick Martin, who was apparently the bad apple in the Splinter barrel.

And now that I'm actually beginning to enjoy their writing, they're shuttering. Phooey.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:06 AM on October 10, 2019 [5 favorites]


I wondered why there wasn't anything up on their site about Rudy's dudes getting taken down today. Goddamnit.
posted by palomar at 9:08 AM on October 10, 2019


They’re speaking a language no one else does, proud of their own inability not just to not fail, but to not understand the terms on which they’re failing. The tragedy of digital media isn’t that it’s run by ruthless, profiteering guys in ill-fitting suits; it’s that the people posing as the experts know less about how to make money than their employees, to whom they won’t listen.

This perfectly describes my experience in digital media. I spent hours in meetings with people telling my team and I how to achieve audience goals we'd already blown past using strategies or techniques we had used and improved on two years before. It does kill a bit of your soul every day. Sad to see this trend continuing.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:15 AM on October 10, 2019 [18 favorites]


This has me wondering which will be the next to go. I’m reasonably sure Deadspin, Kotaku, and Gizmodo are safe (as long as they toe the edict of no politics mentioned in the This is How Things Work article), but I have a terrible feeling both The Root and Jezebel are probably on the block, too.

Fuck Spanfeller and his bunch of investment goons. With all of the shit going on these days, I really, really wasn’t ready for this kind of gut punch.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:15 AM on October 10, 2019 [5 favorites]


It’s one thing to know intellectually that private equity and mergers and the destruction of anti-trust laws means big money interests have a choke hold on all news and media but it’s something to actually see it with your own eyes this week.
posted by The Whelk at 9:17 AM on October 10, 2019 [36 favorites]


Yeah to me the SI stuff doesn't even seem as weird as I feel like it should. We've got multiple generations of privileged business people now who have some combination of VC money and wealth capture to such an extent that they are completely divorced from any sort of business metrics; that they speak their own weird language and have their own weird religion as a result is unsurprising. The system that feeds them money has been a well lubricated machine going on 30 years or so. In summary just go read kliuless' excellent post just a few below this one.
posted by MillMan at 9:17 AM on October 10, 2019 [7 favorites]


The Daily Beast with a report quoting Splinter writers saying there are, in fact, layoffs happening.
posted by Ghidorah at 9:19 AM on October 10, 2019




There are some astute responses to Serwer's tweet, though:
It will always be difficult to garner sympathy or support for Gawker when their single purpose was to humiliate people just because they could.
and
You can’t be opposed to the concentration of power and capital AND hate Gawker and be thankful it’s gone?
I'm glad that Splinter seemed to have gotten rid of the most egregious Bernie Bros, but it lost me well before that.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:37 AM on October 10, 2019 [4 favorites]


The Feeelance Solidarity Project from the national writers union seems appropriate to link here
posted by The Whelk at 9:39 AM on October 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


The problem being that Gawker as a website hasn't existed since 2016, and that the way it was shuttered opened the floodgates for a new wave of capital--especially Silicon Valley--both suppressing free speech and freeing themselves from any accountability from the press that is the underpinning of the rise of...well *waves at everything going on right now*.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:42 AM on October 10, 2019 [11 favorites]


Private equity is a plague.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:49 AM on October 10, 2019 [22 favorites]


I almost forgot, another lefty community news radio station got abruptly shut down this week

“Despite last night’s injunction, Pacifica seized control of WBAI’s signal so we won’t be broadcasting live today. But that won’t stop us. We’re recording an episode right now with an update on the lockout and the public bank campaign with @DSAdebtors that’ll be released tonight!”

You’re not paranoid if they’re actually after you.
posted by The Whelk at 10:00 AM on October 10, 2019 [9 favorites]


“With the news that splinter is shutting down I’m reminded of a tweet I read on here about how the shuttering of all the progressive media outlets principally funded by a wealthy benefactor feels a lot like the ruling class pulling the ladders up behind them”” @kathbarbadoro
posted by The Whelk at 10:13 AM on October 10, 2019 [19 favorites]


Gawker was a good website.
posted by armacy at 10:15 AM on October 10, 2019 [13 favorites]




You’re not paranoid if they’re actually after you.

Yes and this has been the looming problem since the internet replaced all other activist forms of communication.

I'm sad about all of this, of course, but it was entirely predictable, it was predicted by many, some of them being me, and the response was pretty uniformly "but it's cheap and simple and people like it, we can't do anything else". Just the same with moving activism onto facebook, doing protest stuff over twitter, etc etc etc.

There's an enormous net around us and both because of climate change and because of political opportunism it's being drawn tight now. Don't kid yourselves; no one is going to nice out about media, the fate of Rojava, the needs of the disabled during massive power outages, etc etc. Anyone who is vulnerable will go to the wall before any kind of sympathy or relenting comes from power. And what's more, caring itself comes from personal connections, lived solidarity and convictions that people have actually thought out and come to believe - the deep connections that drive people to act - so don't expect people to be nice and humane and giving just because they're not rich, either.

I admit that the whole situation is frustrating to me because it exposes so many people's extremely naive faith in the situation as it was, and it frustrates me because of the sheer number of times that people have been all "gee Frowner really living up to your name" when I've brought this up.
posted by Frowner at 10:37 AM on October 10, 2019 [27 favorites]


I guess our ethos of “we have to do as much as we can in person, in the places people are.” Just got a whole lot more important.
posted by The Whelk at 10:43 AM on October 10, 2019 [5 favorites]


I have a terrible feeling both The Root and Jezebel are probably on the block, too.

Those were the first ones I thought of too. I can't imagine these equity fuckbuckets are big Michael Harriot fans.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:26 AM on October 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


Amazing how, as they both aggressively hire as many ex-Gawker writers as they possibly can, Slate and The New Republic have gotten exponentially better.

Amazing too how many ostensible progressives turned and cheered Peter Thiel for destroying the publication that dared call them reactionary, short-sighted, and problematic. Some are still cheering today.
posted by rorgy at 11:39 AM on October 10, 2019 [21 favorites]


Oh shit

Will read thread and article now
posted by ominous_paws at 11:44 AM on October 10, 2019


Ah and of course it's HamNo that's gone. Burn this shit earth.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:46 AM on October 10, 2019


I'd almost rather those sites just die versus becoming horrible zombie shells of their former selves.
posted by octothorpe at 11:59 AM on October 10, 2019 [2 favorites]


Will be interesting to see how long it takes automated story recommendation algorithms to learn that yes, while I once might have been interested in reading a story from Splinter or The Root (presuming the latter gets the broquity treatment as well), I now no longer want to see them at all. I mean I know I can squelch the publication entirely but I want to see how the algorithm copes with the actual comment vis-a-vis recommendation.
posted by axiom at 12:05 PM on October 10, 2019


The Root

Don't put that evil out in the world!
posted by ominous_paws at 12:09 PM on October 10, 2019 [2 favorites]


The really fucked up thing is that the sleazes who bought these sites, along with the folks who bought SI, seem to be devoted to building a form of SEO bullshit that doesn't even work anymore. The whole thing is weirdly dated.

Clearly somebody forget to property stake and burn Tronc.
posted by srboisvert at 12:29 PM on October 10, 2019 [4 favorites]


Hello! Here is a thread of Splinter's best, most important, and funniest stories 👇👇👇
posted by The Whelk at 12:39 PM on October 10, 2019 [11 favorites]


Fuck-a-doodle-doo.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:11 PM on October 10, 2019 [2 favorites]


On G/O Media sites there used to be a bar up at the top with all their sites listed, and as your cursor passed over each site name a selection of new stories from the site would pop up. It was a handy way to keep up with the sites I followed and it also led me to visit sites I probably never would have visited otherwise. Like, I don't care about sports or cars, but sometimes I'd see an interesting article turn up on Deadspin or Jalopnik so I'd click over there. It was a good thing.

But maybe a month or so back, that feature went away. I thought it had to be just broken at first, but eventually I figured out that it wasn't coming back. It baffled me. These companies are so desperate for clicks, but they'd gotten rid of this simple feature that probably generated tens of thousands of clicks every day. I still visit AV Club and what remains of Io9 now that it's just a parasitic twin on Gizmodo's back, but I visit the other sites much, much less than I used to. Was I supposed to make the time for individual visits to ALL OF THESE SITES every day? Was I supposed to scroll past all the articles I didn't care about on the Root and Kotaku, and Splinter (RIP), to find the ones that did interest me?

Actually, that might have been exactly what somebody at G/O was thinking. They'd do away with the pesky random drop-ins like me, people who'd just spend 10-15 minutes at a site every few days, and force us to click on ALL THE SITES, every day! Maybe this was one of those Very Clever Ideas that's actually dumb as shit.

(Here's where somebody tells me I've just screwed up my settings or something, and the pop-up feature still works for everybody else. But until I hear otherwise, I'm going to assume this was just another big media company finding an exciting and innovative new way to shoot themselves in the goddam foot.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:50 PM on October 10, 2019 [7 favorites]


I wonder what was the final straw? Was it an article they were offended by? An article that Spanfeller considered dangerous to his grift? Outside pressure to kill off a blog doing up to the minute reporting on the shit people in power continue to get away with?
posted by Ghidorah at 3:28 PM on October 10, 2019 [2 favorites]


Consider not linking to, or sharing, articles from extruded content product sites that are owned by shitty companies that fuck over their writers as soon as their completely unsustainable advertising-based funding models collapse.

That's all I got.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:33 PM on October 10, 2019


You know what, as bad as Gawker could get, Splinter was actually good. Splinter published a lot of stories that were well-researched, insightful, genuinely leftist and written in an accessible way. And the GMG group has always been profitable, it just couldn't hold up to a billionaire's perpetual ire. When Univision bought them, they were profitable. I'm pretty sure they're still profitable even now, it's just that they can't earn enough to pay back private equity debt because 1) that's almost an impossible proposition for a media company 2) they're not Gawker anymore.

It's not just business.
posted by storytam at 3:45 PM on October 10, 2019 [4 favorites]


This would explain the relative lack of any information on any other the other sites: the editors were essentially told not to, and they’d be held responsible if anything was published without the ok of ownership.

He (Maidment) went on to issue a warning: “Any reference to Splinter in anything we publish needs my prior approval, as per our editorial policy. Please make sure all your staff are aware of that. You will be accountable if anything not approved by me gets published.”
posted by Ghidorah at 3:45 PM on October 10, 2019 [1 favorite]


Short reads: journalists suck at sales. Only syndicates matter to advertisers. Only a large number of writers can be taken seriously. Businesses are insane but can be managed.

Only when a journalist learns fundraising and publishing do they fully understand the great challenge of listening to everyone. I do it because of the sheer frustration of working with clients who think they are actively managing but immersed in advisers,children, data, debt, innuendo.

The simple fact is that one person cannot run a daily blog and make enough money quickly unless they have backing and will to also work for others and write books. It's not about writing for free. It's about estimating how much a collective of writers and media makers would need to raise to write for pay now while a site or sites take off. I can tell you from deep experience that fundraising is an emotional roller-coaster that you will be lucky to experience but you will be able to avoid if your collective can focus on not asking anyone you know for money. Go to the schmucks. Go to Wall Street and Silicon Valley. I think you could raise $9 million easy and $230 million hard with the right group of 60 to 300 individuals. So I urge those reading to go for it.
Start and stay a worker owned collective. Collectives can get investment and capital because the workers invest for higher returns in the future and people are paid through participation but can get regular shifts. Collectives could theoretically issue bonds.

The funny thing about the media is that companies are so voracious about buying developable properties by any means necessary that they will sacrifice quality sites to fund new projects that now is the perfect time to set up and focus on just getting the greatest advertising in the world. For that, you have to be the first worker's collective in history to hire Nick Denton as your managing publisher and editor. But for the sake of all that is holy, have a succession planning team preparing for all eventualities.

Other recommendations:

Invite a sexual abuse support centre to train the entire business how to be proactive about safeguarding and when disclosure needs to be referred for evaluation by human resources.

Have a human resources department. Even if it's one person and a virtual assistant.

Do sell courses, retreats and racedays in now-electric Datsuns. Do tell writers there is a refundable fee to be evaluated. Do tell interns you can only hire one and make it a national competition that Pepsi and Poynter pay for. Do podcasts. Do buy sites that have potential with the better writing and quality management you can provide. Pay people for their time developing firm-wide projects, they bid for available funding and also earn from clicks, do shifts, and have lines the collective can earn from.

Do expand the collective and plant other ones. Listen to writers by creating clinical supervision, where there may be an empathetic facilitator, generative somatic, or a trained support worker who can do a monthly confidential debrief as a pure listening post to get every word out to convey the ideas and needs of colleagues. Pair that with a worker committee that monitors follow through on worker conditions and business planning. Give it teeth. Allow it to ultimately bring down the CEO if a certain percentage of majority needs and ideas are not openly brought to a foregone conclusion when there is funding available. There should be turnover of the group every year so everyone is trained to evaluate and is paid to serve every few years.
posted by parmanparman at 6:27 PM on October 10, 2019 [3 favorites]


We desperately need to ban private equity and have the government start funding journalism.
posted by cricketcello at 6:56 PM on October 10, 2019 [2 favorites]


(I now see my comment for the rambling derail it truly was. Not having an awesome week, folks.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:59 PM on October 10, 2019


have the government start funding journalism.

This strikes me as a very bad idea. The problem is that the business assholes don't understand that the only journalistic endeavour worth reading is the kind that has editorial independence, so they keep trying to undermine that and in the process blow up the whole damn enterprise.
posted by axiom at 9:54 PM on October 10, 2019 [4 favorites]


We desperately need to ban private equity and have the government start funding journalism.

I mean, kinda Op-Ed: Bernie Sanders on his plan for journalism
posted by The Whelk at 10:13 PM on October 10, 2019




(Here's where somebody tells me I've just screwed up my settings or something, and the pop-up feature still works for everybody else.)

It's not just you. I can't get it to work either. Maybe they just broke it and didn't bother to fix it, for all I know.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:22 AM on October 11, 2019


have the government start funding journalism.

One need only look at the BBC to see how poorly this plays out in politics. If you think NPRs relentless bothsiderism is bad you ain't seen nothing yet. State sponsored journalism ends up being more neutered than even partisan sources.
posted by srboisvert at 7:23 AM on October 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm on the public radio side of things, and I've witnessed colleague after colleague (after colleague...) flee to the greener financial pastures of the VC-funded podcast world over the past few years. [Nieman Lab, Current (1), Current (2)] And while we haven't (yet) experienced the kind of crises that have consumed our print brethren, I know damn well they're coming.

I've had my share of discouragement and bad experiences within the public radio model, but we're doing the best we can from the inside -- witness the unionizing wave at WBUR, Minnesota Public Radio, KPCC, KPBS, WBEZ, KUOW, WNYC, and my own station. It's been encouraging as of late to see some newsrooms doing the same.
posted by mykescipark at 7:31 AM on October 11, 2019 [6 favorites]


James Murdoch buys stake in Vice Media

I wonder if this has anything to do with Austin Walker stepping down as EIC for Waypoint.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:05 AM on October 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


> tobascodagama: I wonder if this has anything to do with Austin Walker stepping down as EIC for Waypoint.

That was my first thought as well, but he seemed pretty adamant on Twitter that it was a step he needed to take for himself to have a better work/life balance, which I can believe having been a fan of his for some years.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:08 PM on October 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


.
posted by aquanaut at 5:20 PM on October 11, 2019


I just went to The Root and got some horrible spammy, "Your computer is infected with 3 viruses" bullshit pop-up. I don't think that the entire set of sites will last two years if that's the kind of crap that they're serving.
posted by octothorpe at 11:45 AM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


Since their acquisition by Spanfeller, I’ve noticed (on mobile) that ads have become ridiculous, either every two posts or so, or in the posts, sometimes between every paragraph. They load for shit, too, making the text you’re reading jump up and down as they load, so sometimes you just need to let all the stupid ads load before trying to read what you’ve clicked on.

The post about “how things work now” was dead on, a bunch of investment goons with no concept of how things worked in the place they just bought, or awareness that how things worked was a large part of what brought them the audience they had just changed in and started demanding the use of cutting edge internet strategies from 2009.

I’m a lot more upset about this than I’d realized. I’ve never made a kinja account, but I’ve been reading Deadspin since it started, and Gizmodo as well. Yes, there are other sites that maybe do things better, but they don’t do being these sites well.

That said, any suggestions for my “splinter is dead, but I’d still like a progressive news and politics site to keep up with all the terrible shit happening” fix?
posted by Ghidorah at 3:15 PM on October 16, 2019 [3 favorites]




Eric Wemple: Deadspin is ceasing to be Deadspin.

I stopped reading Gizmodo (a daily read) when they killed Splinter, and it sounds like the owners are trying to accelerate their own business's demise this point. I hope the writers all land better jobs for better owners elsewhere.
posted by fedward at 3:50 PM on October 30, 2019


Transactions, Nov. 1.

.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:45 AM on November 1, 2019


God damn it.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:33 AM on November 1, 2019


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