Randy Quaid on the Run, DecorMyEyes Defiant and Nick Denton Writes Again

It's the Best Media Writing of the Week

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Gawker is moving beyond the blog, evolving its reverse chronological posting approach for a more curated page design...

What, you say you already knew that? Because it's been written dozens of times over the past months, always as though it were the new news?

Such is gossipmonger Nick Denton's hold on the imagination of people who care about web publishing, the future of journalism and the overlap of the two that his most recent staffwide strategy memo, posted here on Romenesko, once again has stopped the media business in its tracks. How can a $30 million company -- Mr. Denton's valuation -- have such influence? It's partly due to the artfulness of his memos, which, witty and jargon-free, are the antitheses of a press release.

Nick Denton
Nick Denton Credit: Matt Haughey
The most recent is probably the best explanation yet of the business motivation behind the Gawker sites' makeover. Basically, Mr. Denton wants to offer advertisers a suite of options not that different from what an NBC might. Central to that is both the ability to curate content in a granular way, i.e., to separate pics of Brett Favre's junk from content that Visa might actually want to sponsor.

Wrote Mr. Denton:

If the model sounds like TV, that is no accident. There is no future in low-end web advertising, at least not for a media company with any aspirations. We will offer a larger canvas for both our editors and advertisers; and pair their offerings in the way that the web has so far failed and TV has done so well.

While there might be hundreds of sites that claim to have meaningful impact on newsgathering today, no one touches Mr. Denton's ability to channel E.F. Hutton. When he talks, people listen -- and blog. The best of the takes on his most recent news was from Felix Salmon, Reuters blogger and scourge of the truncated RSS feed.

In a big, long gulp of a post, Mr. Salmon not only looks closely at Mr. Denton's announcements but also surveys the Gawker Media empire's various barons and lords, offering scooplets on shareholders' identities and the changing corporate structure -- as well as juice on this week's departure of sales honcho and Ad Age Media Maven Chris Batty, which Denton attributed to a strategic disagreement. Here's Mr. Salmon's interpretation:

If there was one area of disagreement between them which took long-simmering tensions to the point at which the two had little choice but to part ways, it was the fate of the sponsored post. Batty is a huge fan of the format .... With the redesign, the "editorial narrative" disappears: when there isn't a stream of reverse-chronological posts on the home page in which to insert a sponsored post, the attraction of the format dissipates rapidly. From a sales point of view, Denton's redesign essentially sacrifices the idea of having a sponsored post on the home page -- something Batty was almost religious about -- and replaces it with interstitial videos which aren't nearly as sharable, aren't extensible, and quite possibly won't even have permalinks.

If Mr. Denton is trying to clean up his company's act and provide some ad-friendly havens away from the snark, Vitaly Borker aka Tony Russo aka Stanley Bolds is content to live in the gutter. Mr. Borker, who runs a website that sells eyewear, has a marketing approach that goes like this: annoy a customer by not providing the purchased product, respond to complaints with threats, play games with her credit card company, and then respond to posts from her and others on a consumer advocacy site with something like this:

"Hello, My name is Stanley with DecorMyEyes.com," the post began. "I just wanted to let you guys know that the more replies you people post, the more business and the more hits and sales I get. My goal is NEGATIVE advertisement."

It's all part of a sales strategy, he said. Online chatter about DecorMyEyes, even furious online chatter, pushed the site higher in Google search results, which led to greater sales. He closed with a sardonic expression of gratitude: "I never had the amount of traffic I have now since my 1st complaint. I am in heaven."

If some nasty comments on GetSatisfaction.com have helped Mr. Borker's business, who knows what a really long story from New York Times reporter David Segal has done.

Randy Quaid
Randy Quaid Credit: AP
When the world isn't knitting its brow over the Korean peninsula, it wonders what's happened to Randy Quaid, the character actor best known as Uncle Eddie in the National Lampoon "Vacation" movies, since he went AWOL from a Broadway play three years ago.

It turns out he's in Canada seeking asylum, running from the law, and hiding out from what he and his wife Evie describe as a conspiracy to off celebrities that's already taken Heath Ledger, David Carradine and others. Vanity Fair's Nancy Jo Sales ventured to Vancouver to get the scoop:

I found the Quaids sitting in their car outside a Chinese tearoom on a block glowing with red and yellow neon lights. Nobody was around. It was night. Their car, a black Prius, was crammed with stuff -- clothes, coats, shoes, papers, a pillow, blankets, and an excitable Australian cattle dog named Doji, who was hoarse from barking while he was in the pound when his owners were being detained by Canadian immigration.

The car smelled of fast food and dog pee and Randy's cigars. I asked the Quaids if they were living in their car. "Only on nights when we're too terrified to leave our stuff or don't feel secure," Evi said. "We used to have a Mercedes. This whole ordeal has forced us to become incredibly green."

It's unclear given his, um, mobile lifestyle, whether Randy Quaid has abandoned his personal library for the convenience of an e-reader. The Morning News' Alexander Chee, a frequent relocator, has and, in a lovely personal essay, he decribes how he now relates to printed matter in the age of the Kindle:

The world remains beautiful and terrible at the same time, and either way, I know it doesn't care what I think or feel about it. There are things to do to help others, and there are things that may never change. But if I learned anything from all of this, it's my first, oldest lesson as a reader: There is always going to be a book that saves you. There is also a new lesson: You do not know how it will get to you.

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