My advice for Valleywag: Cover people who matter this time

By Sarah Lacy , written on January 28, 2013

From The News Desk

Apparently snark kingpin Nick Denton is bringing Valleywag back... sort of. It'll still mostly be an offshoot of Gawker, with a stand-alone site as well, according to a post on BusinessInsider.

Denton claims everyone in the Valley read it back in its heyday -- a claim that almost caused me to spit Diet Coke across the room. Certainly I didn't see the underlying numbers, but my sense was always the exact opposite.

After its buzzy debut -- the early Web 2.0 party days when it was indeed a novel, guilty pleasure for many -- the Valley quickly lost interest in the site. The readers seemed to me to be Valley outsiders who wanted to feel like insiders. Whenever I was written about on Valleywag, I'd hear about it from friends in New York who read Gawker -- never from people in the Valley actually doing stuff. Indeed, the only people I've seen excited about this news today on my Twitter feed are -- surprise, surprise -- people who don't live here.

The problem with Valleywag ultimately was two-fold. It focused on people's private lives in the Valley, which people here generally try to respect. It's simply not the same culture as the New York or LA media scene where outing everyone's personal affairs is de rigeur. Also private lives are somewhat more boring when you work all the time.

However, there are tons of half-souced, unreported drama when it comes to the inner workings of startups. If you insist on trading in unsubstantiated gossip and blind items, this time around, try writing about what's actually going on in board rooms. Rifts, ousters, explosions... Things that actually affect product and valuations and cash. You may actually break meaningful news.

That's was the difference between the irreverent FuckedCompany and Valleywag: FuckedCompany told you who was going out of business, not what no-name developer got drunk at a party on Wednesday night.

The second problem was that Valleywag was never very good at actually covering the rich and powerful of the Valley. Instead it tended to obsess about total nobodies like, well, me. I was written about some 95 times in the history of the site, and I wasn't even running a company back then. People like me are easy targets. Actually powerful people are hard to get close to when you have a team of "reporters" who strive for volume and snark above anything else.

If Valleywag doesn't have to be a standalone site, Denton should do it right this time. Hire a real team of investigative journalists to report the stuff the Valley doesn't want out there. Give it that crazy but well-reported edge you see with Mark Ames political writing on NSFWCORP. Then the Valley would fear you, not dismiss you. Most of all, it would read you this time.

Only make it about people who actually matter and about things that actually affect the core business of the Valley. Even among muckrakers, there's real reporting and then there's just pathetic. We've got enough pathetic on the Web these days.

[Image Credit: mathowie on Flickr]