Pando

Fmr Gawker exec: Valleywag was created to "give Nick Denton leverage over Silicon Valley companies"

By Paul Bradley Carr , written on June 4, 2015

From The News Desk

Another gem of a claim from disgruntled former Gawker editorial director, Joel Johnson.

After ranting that Nick Denton is a "coward," and laying out Gawker's alleged financial position, Johnson set his sights on the company's Valleywag gossip vertical.

Johnson (or at least, someone claiming to be Johnson and using Johnson's established Gawker comment account) claims the vertical wasn't supposed to drive meaningful traffic to Gawker, but instead "existed entirely" as a tool to give Denton leverage over Silicon Valley companies. "I am no longer feared when I walk into Silicon Valley boardrooms,” Denton reportedly told Johnson when the latter suggested it be shut down.

In the comment, Johnson blames:

[A] ceaseless paranoia that encourages and rewards employees who gossip to him about their peers, or perpetuates cynical (and cyclical!) editorial strategies that manifest in sites like Valleywag, which existed entirely as a lever to be used in transactions with Valley companies. (“I am no longer feared when I walk into Silicon Valley boardrooms” was the response I was given when attempting to shut down Valleywag last year.)
Earlier this year, Valleywag's short-lived editor Dan Lyons was booted (sorry, "stepped down") from the site after a string of misogynist posts which many felt echoed the rhetoric of Gamergate. Ironically, Lyons was hired after the departure of former Valleywag co-editor Sam Biddle who was bullied out of his job by Gamergate.

If Johnson is right, then Denton's choice of foot soldiers in his campaign to be respected on Sand Hill Road was even more wrong-headed than it appeared. Both Biddle and Lyons were criticized (including on Pando) for focusing on bad behavior by relatively junior Valley employees rather than major players, largely because they lacked access to sources in the boardrooms of Silicon Valley.

Thanks to Biddle and Lyons, Nick Denton would have been more feared walking into the breakrooms of Silicon Valley than its boardrooms.

Here's the full comment.