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The Wizard of Blogs? New Yorker Profile of Nick Denton

October 31, 2010

Nick Denton used to be called “Dick Nenton” by colleagues, you know, because he is a dick and you just need to switch the first two letters of his names around and his name actually tells you that. Where was he working at the time? The Financial Times. Smart people.

He is a man you probably haven’t heard of and dont recognise… probably you are already in your internet-standard ADD getting ready to click on another of your thirteen open tabs… and probably, if you are anything like me – and there are at least seventeen million of us every month – one of those tabs will be making him money.

Nick Denton is the man behind Gawker Media, probably the biggest, snarkiest collection of blogs on the internet, a media empire that devours dimensions of culture and shits them out as porn… car porn, tech porn, video-clip porn, good old fashioned porn porn, and my personal favorite, gossip porn at the flagship site that gives the group its name. He is probably responsible for more work delinquency than anyone but Mark Zuckerberg. Between those two men it is frankly remarkable I still have a salary. I highly recommend you read the whole New Yorker profile on him here.

I think what struck me was how simultaneously he is both surprising and yet exactly what you would expect. Whereas the surprise is grounded in where he came from – a middle class Oxford-educated British man, a former journalist at both the Financial Times and the Daily Telegraph who spent (largely by choice) the early part of his professional life covering the transition from Communism to Capitalism in Eastern Europe, a man who had political ambitions before realising he wasn’t “politically viable” – the latter is grounded in what in time he has become.

Nick Denton radiates the tone of the internet age on every line, a sort of threadbare philosophy of not-quite-but-almost-nihilism. In his core belief, that the only index of quality worth considering is popularity, he understands something perhaps only a handful of people have really understood on a visceral level, that the point, at this point, is exposure. We have entered into a viral culture – in music, in marketing, in media, even in a sense perhaps politics. Obama was America’s first viral president, and the yang that brought the yin of the Tea Party, its first viral reactionary movement.

So perhaps what I’m trying to say is that Nick Denton matters, which from reading the piece, I’m sure would be something he might agree with more than anyone. “There are no titans” he says at one point. Perhaps, but there will always be icons. Nick Denton, whether you realise it or not, whether you want it or not, is one of ours.

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