Gawker Blog Content to Appear in Daily Yahoo News

But Will Mainstream America Appreciate Snark?

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Middle America, meet Gawker.

Gawker Media's electronic gossip sites -- among the raunchiest, bitchiest blogs on the Internet -- will appear in the news section of Yahoo, where online America goes to get its news.

Yahoo, which is consistently ranked as one of the top three most-trafficked news sites by Nielsen/NetRatings, has been bolstering its original news content as it tries to turn itself into a leader in the digital age under the direction of its top programming executives, such as Lloyd Braun, who was formerly the head of ABC Entertainment Television Group.

Recent features
Yahoo has started a video adventure travel area, publishes dispatches from war zones by a foreign correspondent, and provides a daily roundup of print and online business news from Dennis Publishing's The Week.

The Gawker relationship is Yahoo's second blog deal. It has also recently begun running posts from political blog honcho Arianna Huffington's HuggingtonPost.com. With its news from 100 or so other sources, such as AP and Reuters, Yahoo is a leading Internet news center; it boasted 25 million unique users in its news area in October.

Edgy quality
Yahoo will post five to seven pieces a day from Gawker Media blogs Gawker, Wonkette, Gizmodo, Defamer and Lifehacker. The first few lines of each post will appear in the op-ed section of Yahoo News and link back to Gawker.com. The blogs provide an edgy quality for Yahoo. Neither Yahoo nor Gawker publisher Nick Denton would talk about the financial terms of the deal.

But is mainstream America -- not to mention Yahoo's advertisers -- ready for content "so fixated on the hunting of the snark that they're prepared to flame everybody to a crisp?" as Jack Shafer wrote in Slate about two of Mr. Denton's blogs. Gawker slogs the New York news media scene, and Wonkette provides an irreverent, and often salacious slant, to Washington political news and scandal.

Scott Moore, head of news and finance at Yahoo, said, "That's the nature of blogs." Laughing at Mr. Shafer's remarks (Mr. Moore was formerly the publisher of Slate), he said: "As long as the content is framed in an appropriate way, our audience is not going to be hoodwinked into believing something is true or not true." But Mr. Moore did add the content may be vetted for appropriateness before it is posted.

Pointing out that his blogs' postings are discreetly tagged with "appropriateness ratings" already, such as NFW (as in "not for work"), Mr. Denton said "people are still going to have to come to Gawker for the juicy stuff."

'The middle-American hausfrau'
"We're not interested in the middle-American hausfrau as a reader of our site, but there's some people who ought to be reading Gawker sites because they haven't gotten into the habit," said Mr. Denton, who has been a leader in building the ad model across his network and developing sponsorship micro-blogs such as Art of Speed for Nike, which Gawker put up in 2004.

He said Yahoo's massive audience will bring those new unique visitors to Gawker. But won't he lose his valuable stable of niche influencers when he goes mainstream? "Yahoo has always been the coolest of the portals," he said. "We would never have struck a deal with AOL, for instance."

Plus, Yahoo might lend credibility to those big brands that have been on the fence about advertising on Gawker Media. "For them, this deal is a comfort."

Time will tell if Yahoo's advertisers turn out to be so comfortable with the arrangement.

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