Vapor Sales: A Look At New York Tech And Media

by Stanely Stuyvesant · February 17, 2010

The news of Gawker Media's recent "acquisition" of cityfile and dismissal of Editor-in-Chief Gabriel Snyder has sent the New York Media gossip machine into overdrive.  Many have lamented Gawker owner Nick Denton's mercurial nature and willingness to abruptly change course despite positive double-digit growth in his flagship website.  But it is the semantic packaging of this Potemkin deal that is perhaps most discouraging.

Gabriel Snyder, in his goodbye memo had the following to say:

"Honesty is Gawker's only virtue, so it seems inappropriate to engage in the usual corporate euphemisms of "wanting to explore new new opportunities" or "take a larger role in the company" or "spend more time with my family" ...so I'll put this as plainly as we'd report any other masthead ouster: I am being canned."

If honesty is Gawker's only virtue, then it looks like it jumped the shark (as Gawker loves to say) with Denton's deal memo. Anyone with half a brain knows that mechanics of the deal effectively adds Cityfile editor Remy Stern into the Gawker masthead and that's about it.

Sure, Cityfile has a few thousand people profiles with some solid SEO, but Gawker already ranks higher in many if not all of the same keywords. This mysterious "acquisition" is no more than a hire that Denton's calculus has lead him to believe will broaden Gawker's audience.  There is no doubt that Remy was a slick aggregator at Cityfile, and Denton clearly covets his abilities.  We've all heard of vaporware, but now Denton seems to have created a new genre of deals; vapor sales.

But perhaps the joke is on us.  The New York Tech and Media scenes are so complicity over eager to feed each other's own belief in their relevancy and greater importance that they will pretty much buy any story hook line and sinker.  Many of these so-called player's phantom relevance is perpetuated by a tiresome overexposure that ironically mimics this very deal.  Why else would Denton dare beg the following question:

"Does this mean Gawker is going on an acquisition spree?"

Seriously Nick?  You want us to believe that Cityfile presented a net present value investment for you?  That there were some larger synergies to extract from the deal? This wouldn't even pass the giggle test at your very own Valleywag.

But then again you can't blame Nick for trying to sell to the very establishment that constantly pushes the same borish profile mashups of tech personas whose main talent appears to be PR.  It is the same community that puts together a "tech clique" roundtable with panelists from Thrillist and Paperless Post.  Thrillist is a fantastic media company, and Paperless post is an intriguing twist on evites, but neither are tech.

This frequent conflation of tech and media, whether purposeful or happenstance is quite irksome.  Whether it is a case of overall systemic rot or simply an unimaginative blogosphere, the passing off of this "aquisition"seems to say a lot about the New York scene as a whole.