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SXSW

SXSW: Gawker's Nick Denton Eyes the Messaging Space (Social Media Chills Him)

Published on .

Nick Denton, founder of Gawker Media, at a previous event.
Nick Denton, founder of Gawker Media, at a previous event. Credit: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Gawker founder Nick Denton spoke for the first time at SXSW this week about what he plans to do next following the demise of the site he founded -- and it will likely involve the messaging space.

"The space between private and public is very interesting, somewhere between messaging and public forums," he said during a Sunday morning panel.

Mr. Denton believes people are more "interesting and constructive" versions of themselves in private and is looking to create a place where people can listen and understand one another without the immediate backlash from Twitter trolls.

He enjoys using Google Hangouts and Twitter direct messages, where he says people can exchange ideas and links and is overall a much more engaging media experience.

"Facebook makes me despise most of my friends and Twitter makes me hate the rest of the world," Mr. Denton said.

"The next phase of media… is going to come out of the idea of an authentic, chill conversation about things that matter," he continued.

Mr. Denton could be taking some cues from Reddit. While he said you might not like many things that appear in the threads, he is drawn to the model of a community.

He also said his go-to site right now is The Browser, which highlights six stories a day that range from research papers to deep dives in obscure publications.

"It reminds me how awesome the internet can be and what early blogs were," he said.

Gawker shuttered in August, after a jury found in favor of Hulk Hogan's invasion-of-privacy lawsuit over the site's publication of parts of a sex tape featuring the wrestler. Ordered to pay $140 million in damages, Gawker Media filed for bankruptcy and was sold to Univision, which shut down the flagship site.

Mr. Denton admitted the Hulk Hogan story was "close to the line." "Was it the greatest story?" he said. "No it clearly wasn't the greatest story. In hindsight, as an editor, if you are going to expose someone to mockery there needs to be a point to it."

When it comes to fake news from the likes of Breitbart, among others, Mr. Denton said sites like these grew out of the same reaction to a stilted news environment that Gawker did back in 2002.

"Gawker was often sensational, but always grounded in truth, a dramatic version of the truth, but truth," he said.

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