Univision expands digital reach with Gawker deal – USA TODAY
Gawker Media founder Nick Denton emphasized continuity afterÂ the company’s news/commentary blogs were sold to Univision Communications this week.
In the $135 million deal announced Tuesday night, Gawker employees âare protected and will continue their work under new ownership,â said the British journalist, who founded the freewheeling companyÂ in 2005.
But the blogsâ days as independent operations â answerable only to Denton and a few editors â will be over once the sale is finalized after the bankruptcy court approves it this week.
The seven blogs bought by Univision, best known for the Spanish-language TV network that carries its name, will be merged into the company’s fast-growing English-language digital media division, Fusion Media. And the digital publishing units in the network likely will have to learn to get along, share resources, create video content for and cross-promote each other.
The final days of Gawker Media â and what triggered its end â have been well-chronicled. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in June and put its assets up for sale after a jury ordered it to pay $140 million to Hulk Hogan following an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit brought by the former pro wrestler. Terry Bollea, aka. Hulk Hogan, sued Gawker after the site posted a video in 2012 of him having sex with his former best friend’s wife.
As its assets went on the block in the bankruptcy proceedings, online publisher Ziff Davis stepped in with an initial offer said to be about $100 million. Univision subsequently topped it with a betterÂ offer. After a claim reconciliation process by creditors that will be overseen by the bankruptcy court, Hogan and other creditors likely will share in the sales proceeds, says Jeremy Hollembeak, a bankruptcy attorney at Kobre & Kim. âItâs the biggest claim, but itâs not the only claim.â
But forÂ GawkerÂ employees, the sale is a chance to be âdisentangled from the legal campaignâ and be part of a new owner that is âdevoted to vibrant journalism,â Denton says.
Univision and Gawker declined to comment. All seven of Gawkerâs blogs are being acquiredÂ â flagship site Gawker.com (aÂ news-and -gossip blog about celebrities, media personalities and politicians);LifehackerÂ (tips);Â DeadspinÂ (sports);Â JezebelÂ (womenâs interests);Â KotakuÂ (gaming); JalopnikÂ (cars), and Gizmodo (technology).
Univisionâs track record as an online publisher is short, having kept its editorial focus on its Spanish-language TV network that airs telenovelas, sports, sitcoms, reality shows and news for the growing Hispanic population in the U.S.
But with plans to float shares in an initial public offering later this year, Univision has bigger ambitions and is on a mission to diversify and broaden its audience. One of its key targets for new revenue: English-speaking Millennials who are willing to experiment with new news sources and donât mind a bit of pizzazz in editorial presentation. And if thereâs one thing Gawker knows well, itâs snark and attitude in writing.
Gawkerâs blogs will provide an immediate jolt to Univisionâs digital publishing goals, which include generating enough online traffic to compete with other ballyhooed digital natives, such asÂ BuzzFeedÂ and Vox Media. Gawkerâs blogs generate about 56Â million unique visitors a month, according to media analytics firm comScore..
Univisionâs digital media quest began in earnest in 2013, when it struck a joint venture agreement with the Walt Disney Co. The venture, called Fusion, developed an English-language digital news outlet and a cable channel that targetedÂ English-speaking Millennials.
Earlier this year, Univision bought out Disneyâs stake and pivoted toward its mission to target a younger audience of all ethnicities. Univision then created a new unit, Fusion Media, to houseÂ the English-language sites that it wholly or partially owns. Among them: The Onion, A.V. Club and Clickhole, which feature humor and satire; The Root, an African-American news site: and Flama, a news-and-entertainment site for young Hispanics.
Gawkerâs blogs, known of their pugnacious coverage of celebrities, politicians, womenâs issues, athletes and media personalities, would be jigsaw pieces that would presumably be moved to fit into Fusion’s evolving puzzle.
A keystone in Fusionâs growth â not unlike other digital publishers’ â has been video. All of its sites are pushed to generate streams of videoÂ that can be sold to advertisers. The Onion also has expanded aggressively on âbranded contentâ video, working with corporate clients to produce humorous videosÂ that tell stories about their products. And it wouldnât be far-fetched to assume that Gawkerâs sites, which are mostly devoid of video content, will be pushed in that direction.
Fusion Mediaâs ownership could also produce new TV opportunities for Gawkerâs blogs. Fusion, the TV network, airs plenty of documentaries and personalities â such as The Naked Truth series and TV newsman Jorge RamosÂ â that are seen in Univisionâs other news outlets.