Gawker’s Denton: Twitter’s Audience ‘Too Elite’; Blogs Look Ludicrous

In general, online media needs to turn itself into TV, said Gawker Media head Nick Denton, identified in this week’s New York magazine as the “demon blogger of Fleet Street,” in a Q&A with AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka at the IAB’s Mixx 2010 conference. “It means a screen which is less constrained by the need to have three or four ads and every single bit of content on one screen,” Denton said, alluding to his own plans for Gawker’s major redesign.

While big pictures are the emphasis, there’s still a place for writers, he maintained. The core of the iPhone 4 Gizmodo story was a an image. The text set up the video, rather than being important in itself. “The ludicrous thing about the construction of blogs, is that we had to cease publishing for six hours to keep this story at the top of the page,” Denton said, referring to the the blog layout which tends to push older stories down the page. (Still, most blogs use the ability to make a feature story “stick” to the top when warranted).

Talking about the ongoing legal problems from Apple and the police over the questionable circumstances with which Gawker and Gizmodo wound up with the iPhone 4 prototype, not much new is going on and the case is still progressing. As he has said before, he does not regret the hassles with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL). “Steve Jobs was the best thing to ever happen to Gizmodo.”

Denton has been vocal about driving pageviews and the company’s “big board” is a constant reminder of how well (or not) a writer’s post is doing. While a lot of sites rely on titillating photos of women in various states of undress to drive traffic, Denton said that tactic doesn’t always work. In the case of Gizmodo, an image of a naked woman probably wouldn’t provide the links that bring in unique visitors; original, breaking news items are best for that. Still, some parts of the Gawker empire do rely on aiming to baser instincts. For example, its sports blog DeadSpin has been known to feature images of naked athletes. Denton isn’t worried about advertisers getting spooked by it as they can opt out of certain topics. And above all, a nude photo of a Jersey Shore star wouldn’t be bad for traffic, he conceded.

But in terms of Gawker the site’s focus, it has narrowed its coverage to more new media and less of the old. “I always say that our readers are interested in [Mark] Zuckerberg, not [Mort] Zuckerman.”

Does he consider what he does “journalism?” Kafka asked. “I consider that to be an uninteresting question,” Denton said.

In terms of using social media to drive traffic, Denton dismissed Twitter as a “closed, elite audience, it’s not mainstream enough.” But Facebook is another story and can send a post’s traffic up five-fold, he said. To build on that, a Facebook edition could be Gawker’s future, where stories are personalized and the reading experience is more “intimate.”