“She’s smart enough to plug herself in, but has the freshness and naïveté of a good Web log,” Mr. Denton said, adding that Ms. Spiers was “still amazed by things that a traditional newspaper might think of as boring or repetitive.”
“Everyone has this illusion that Web logs have taken the world by storm,” Mr. Denton said, “but Web logs have probably only reached 10 percent of the Internet population. Our goal is to reach the remainder.”
Mr. Denton said Kinja users would be able to decide whether to make their customized digests public and that the best digests would be promoted at the site, making the users “part of the editorial team.”
Mr. Denton said that the growing rate of broadband use had created an audience very much in the habit of keeping a laptop open and running as part of their leisure time. And since the majority of the viewers of the company’s sites are people from the ages of 18 to 34, two-thirds of them male, advertisers are beginning to buy in, Mr. Denton said.
Mr. Denton said: “I don’t know about all this talk about a revolution in media habits. These are just online magazines that appeal to a certain kind of reader. We have been able to attract them and sell standard advertising units. That’s it.”
“People come up to me as if it’s witty and say, ‘How is the empire going?”’ Mr. Denton said, “which is pretty pathetic.”
The idea of grouping the blogs, Mr. Denton said, was to give the company an air of respectability.
“It goes beyond any kind of question of church and state or journalistic ethics that the whole editorial tone of the Gawker sites is absolutely wrapped up in the notion of take no prisoners,” Mr. Denton said. “It owes nothing to anybody, and if one ever started compromising that, it would be grim.”
“If you take the amount of attention that has been devoted in the last year to Web logs as a business and something that’s going to change business and compare that with the real effect and the real money, it’s totally disproportionate,” Mr. Denton said, “in the same way all the coverage of the Internet in the late 90's was out of whack.”
“It made me want to move to Budapest, batten down the hatches and wait for the zombies to run out of food,” Mr. Denton said cheerily.
“We are becoming a lot more like a traditional media company,” Mr. Denton said last week. “You launch a site, you have great hopes for it and it does not grow as much as you wanted. You have to have the discipline to recognize what isn’t working and put your money and efforts into those sites that are.”
“If ‘I Am Legend’ comes out, you can post ‘I Am Legend’ is out, or you can do a round up of the top 10 images of New York destroyed,” Mr. Denton said. “That will be much better than the former, because everyone has the news ‘I Am Legend’ is out.”
But as some of its blogs started using many writers, the effect of paying based on the usage of the whole blog didn’t create the right incentives for writers, Mr. Denton said.
Mr. Denton said that after a single year of existence, Jezebel has about the same traffic as Gawker and carries more annotation from the commentariat than any other site the company owns.
Mr. Denton said that graphic clutter or not, he would be among the people looking in.
In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Denton said he was also in talks to sell Defamer, a show business gossip site, but he said he had no plans to sell other sites, which include the media sites Gawker and Jezebel.
Mr. Denton said the troublesome advertising market had led to the sale of Consumerist.
When he talked to Nick Denton, who owns Gawker among other sites, Mr. Denton said that his sites have also been picked clean by other sites, and suggested that the excerpt was perhaps a little more fulsome than what Gawker usually does.
“Scoops pay,” Mr. Denton said.
“When an unnamed source misleads, as far as we’re concerned, they lose the right to remain in the shadows,” Mr. Denton said in an e-mail exchange.
Mr. Denton said CityFile, which he called a “people directory” of 2,144 notable New Yorkers, would serve as the centerpiece of Gawker’s “new topic and people pages,” part of an effort to increase the Web site’s visitor totals.
“Any surge of traffic is either a waste or a bonus to the advertiser,” Mr. Denton said in an instant message chat. “The real value is in marketing.”
Mr. Denton said that as exclusive news becomes an ever rarer commodity, the tactical aggression will grow in all corners.
“When a writer’s byline is on the Big Board, you see them sometimes just standing there in front of it. Even though nothing is changing,” Mr. Denton said.
“Are bloggers journalists? I guess we’ll find out,” Mr. Denton said in an instant message.
With Jezebel breaking more stories and garnering more unique visitors than ever before, “Advertisers are no longer treating it as a cute new entrant,” Mr. Denton said. “This is Jezebel’s moment.”
Mr. Denton said not all writers have warmed to the concept.
“I thought it would expose the real me, if there is such a thing,” Mr. Denton said, “but I still seem to be imprisoned in a myth of my own making.”
But in a memorandum to his staff in October hailing the publication of a first-person account of one young man’s encounter with Christine O’Donnell, the failed Senate candidate, Mr. Denton said, “Writers are successful to the extent that they can sublimate their egotism and get out of the way of the story.”
On the phone, Mr. Denton said that he had a hard time thinking about working for anyone and when “I try to imagine — say — a News Corp. merger with Gawker and plugging their assets into our systems, I can’t imagine it being successful. We’re just too different.”
Mr. Denton said in the memo that Mr. Stern would become a consultant and help Gawker with “new editorial initiatives,” including “a model for biographical and product pages on both Gawker and other sites in the group.”
Mr. Denton said Monday that Deadspin now has an average monthly audience of 2.6 million in the United States, up from 500,000 in 2008.
When asked what role Mr. Miller played in the development of Gawker’s new commenting system, Mr. Denton said that Mr. Miller wanted to forge some sort of licensing agreement, but Gawker declined because it was already at work on its own commenting system.
“He’s a competitor,” Mr. Denton said. “That’s his role.”
In an internal memo, Mr. Denton said that Mr. Daulerio’s tenure at Gawker “has been much like him: bold, infuriating, unpredictable … and often brilliant.”
Mr. Denton said this in a memorandum that leaked from the company last year, noting that page views were slowing on the company’s sites as people chose to discuss articles on Twitter and Facebook.
Mr. Denton said the seeds of Kinja were planted in the late ’90s, when he was a journalist with The Financial Times in London. “The real story was never the one in the newspaper,” Mr. Denton said in an interview. “It was the discussion between the writers afterwards at a bar when someone said, ‘So, what really happened?’
“The dream of the early blogs was that through conversation we could tell the truth, and if we could discover the truth, we could then have conversations around that truth,” Mr. Denton said.
But, as Mr. Denton said, his biggest challenge might not be helping people discover great conversation online, but rather, changing how people perceive online commentary.
“That was the first time that we were really by ourselves,” Mr. Denton said. “We were getting to know each other properly.”
“The advice was that road trips early on in a relationship are dangerous,” Mr. Denton said, “and this was two weeks, involving me going back to my ancestral homeland.”
Before the wedding, Mr. Denton said: “I’m not particularly good at talking about sentiment. But it’s obvious to us and people who know us that we’re just a fit, a perfect fit. They call it same-sex marriage, but I’m with someone who’s completely different to me, different in a way that fits me perfectly. I finally actually understand what the good bit about straight marriage is, the good bit about how a man and woman bring different things to the table.”
In his vow, Mr. Denton said, “I was always expected to be successful, but I never really believed I would be happy.”
Mr. Cook will be deputy editor of investigations, a new role spanning Gawker Media’s eight titles, which include Jezebel and Gizmodo, Mr. Denton said in an interview Thursday. He will do “what he did best on Gawker — great big scoops — but across the eight sites,” Mr. Denton said.
Mr. Denton said he would stay on as chief executive and remain involved in the company’s future, but that recent failures in management had shown he needed more support.
In a long and rambling note, Mr. Denton said that while he was proud that Gawker’s monthly audience had increased 20 percent and its profits had climbed 30 percent, he felt its editorial product was lagging.
The managing board will make company decisions by consensus, or majority if consensus can’t be reached and individual members dissent, Mr. Denton said.
Asked if he worried that the union could restrict his ability to make strategic changes, Mr. Denton said: “It will close off a few options, none of them very appealing anyway. And it will open so many more.”
“It’s a $100 million lawsuit,” Mr. Denton said when I asked later in the evening how concerned he was about the Hogan case. “We don’t keep $100 million in the bank, no.”
“The Katie Holmes story was a total classic,” Mr. Denton said. “Come with me as I investigate this urban legend.”
“A lot of our traffic last year came from stories that we weren’t ultimately proud of,” Mr. Denton said.
When someone asked if employees should be prepared for layoffs, Mr. Denton said the risk was difficult to quantify, in part because cases like this are almost always settled or dismissed long before they reach a jury.
But in a memo to the staff last year, Mr. Denton said that he had reassessed the drive for traffic above all other considerations.
He is responsible, Mr. Denton said, for some of Gawker’s most memorable articles, including “the exposure of Toronto’s crack-smoking mayor and Hillary Clinton’s secret email correspondence.”
“When we asked him to serve as acting executive editor, we did have a hunch that we’d ask him to take the job permanently,” Mr. Denton said.
Mr. Denton said publicly that the site would be “nicer” in the future and less tabloid in its sensibilities.
It will, like many other media organizations, be happy to reach readers wherever they are, Mr. Denton said, including “Apple News, YouTube and Facebook Instant Articles.”
“The first blogs were a reaction against the idiocy and pomposity of mass media,” Mr. Denton said in an interview by Instant Messenger on Tuesday. “Now social media is dominated by the same stories that would have made the local television news. We’re in an era of mass social media. I think smarter readers are seeking refuge in subcultures.”
For Gawker, Mr. Denton said, the deal concludes several months of meetings about outside investment. The company had been independent since its founding in the early 2000s, Mr. Denton said, “but digital media is a serious business. This is not a blog collective any more.”
The company’s websites, including Gawker.com, which recently switched to focus on politics rather than New York and the media world, will remain editorially independent despite the new investment, Mr. Denton said.
Under questioning in the deposition, recorded in October 2013, Mr. Denton said that contrary to Mr. Daulerio’s feelings, he had not been “very excited” by news that Gawker had received a video showing Hulk Hogan having sex with a woman on a four-poster bed. “We all have sex,” Mr. Denton said, noting that he preferred stories that had “some kind of meaning.”
A letter from a lawyer for Mr. Bollea, asking Gawker to take down the video shortly after it had been posted, “wasn’t persuasive,” Mr. Denton said. “We continued to believe in its newsworthiness.”
“I think it stands on its own,” Mr. Denton said, “and stands up to the test of time.” Referring to Albert J. Daulerio, the former editor in chief of Gawker who published the video and wrote the accompanying commentary, Mr. Denton said: “He made a contrast between an American icon and the man behind that American icon. I think it was of newsworthy interest” to the site’s readers.
Mr. Denton said: “I think most stories tend to be true. I think we tend to have high standards.”
Mr. Denton said he was hopeful, like many publishers, that deep “niche” brands have something to offer advertisers.
“The answer may be entirely innocent,” Mr. Denton said, musing on the question of whether Mr. Harder was paid by someone other than Mr. Hogan, “but I think in order for people to understand what’s going on here, what the stakes are, I think it’s important that it be out in public, or at least that he’d be asked the question in public.”
As for the lawsuits against Gawker Media, “the evidence has built up over time that there are questions that are unanswered here,” Mr. Denton said. “The data point that really got us thinking was the move that they made on insurance, which seemed designed to prevent insurance paying for our defense.”
“In L.A. and New York power centers, people are pretty used to an independent and critical press,” Mr. Denton said. “It’s not like we write that much about Hollywood’s celebrities that isn’t written in TMZ or in other celebrity news sites.”
“My own personal hunch is that it’s linked to Silicon Valley,” Mr. Denton said.
“The place would not run without Heather,” Mr. Denton said in a recent interview. “She’s the person that holds everything together.”
Still, in a candid acknowledgment of Gawker’s circumstances, Mr. Denton said Mr. Thiel’s involvement had “been financially draining” and had “undoubtedly depressed Gawker Media Group’s valuation.”
“Ever since the verdict, this was a likely outcome,” Mr. Denton said in an instant message.
“I don’t have that kind of money lying around,” Mr. Denton said on Monday. “In fact, almost all my net worth is in the independent media business to which I have devoted my working life the last 14 years.”
Still, Mr. Denton said his personal bankruptcy would not have much of an effect on Gawker, and he painted an optimistic portrait.
“I’m not going to say we lost, but Peter Thiel achieved his objective,” Mr. Denton said, according to a person at the meeting.
In his note, Mr. Denton said the company had been unable to find a buyer for the site.
“After four years of litigation funded by a billionaire with a grudge going back even further, a settlement has been reached,” Mr. Denton said in a blog post on Wednesday.