‘News is being carried by entertainment’: Nick Denton on the state of media

In a nearly full Alice Tully Hall on Tuesday, Nick Denton, the man who oversaw the rise and fall of Gawker held forth on what went wrong and why digital news publications are in a tough predicament.

Denton held forth in a conversation with Fusion senior editor Felix Salmon at the closing panel at Transition, a two-day event put on by marketing platform Percolate.

Below are some choice excerpts from the conversation. In a few instances, these have been lightly edited.

On what went wrong for Gawker at the Hulk Hogan trial
“The jury liked him, and didn’t like a bunch of Fifth Avenue deviants. It was a popularity contest, and we lost, conclusively.”

On innovation in media
“There’s been a lot of innovation in the distribution of content, in making sure the right person sees the right content at the right time. If you look at the content creation level, there really hasn’t been that much innovation at all.”

On the rise of autoplay video
“We have yet to see if it actually makes money for anybody. And we’ve yet to see if the user experience is significantly improved over simply scrolling text.”

On the value independent digital media companies place in news
“The news is being carried by the entertainment. As long as things are good, the news will be fine. [But] news will be one of the first places to feel the cuts.”

On how the internet is perceived
“I love Twitter. You have very important conversations, it’s forced social change, political change. I’m not a Twitter basher, but the trolls on Twitter have given the rest of the internet a bad name. The writing is more defensive. People are expecting that toxic reaction. What would have been seen as standard journalistic criticism can now quite easily be dubbed bullying. The attitudes have changed.”

On Denton’s future
“A lot of lawsuits. I’ve been trying to find a better phrase than professional litigant to describe my upcoming year.”

On the Internet being terrible
“How much worse could it get?”

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