Nick Denton: 'The internet is like Somalia, filled with warring clans'

The Gawker Media founder described how the web reinforces people's pre-existing notions at Percolate's Transition Conference in New York on Tuesday afternoon.

Nick Denton at Percolate's Transition Conference on Tuesday.
Nick Denton at Percolate's Transition Conference on Tuesday.

NEW YORK: Gawker Media founder Nick Denton compared the internet to Somalia, filled with warring clans in conflict with one another over their opinions, while speaking at Percolate’s Transition Conference in New York on Tuesday evening.

"When people are living in comments in forums or on niche sites and when their entire news diet maybe through Facebook is an amplification of the opinions and shared stories from that self-selecting group, you have the risk of an online world that looks much like Somalia," Denton said. "You end up with a bunch of clans in perpetual conflict with each other."

As a result, it’s difficult to reach a mass audience with a message — political or otherwise — that speaks to everyone at the same time, he added.

"There has been a lot of innovation in the distribution of content and making sure the right person sees the right angle at the right moment," said Denton. "It is hard to see that you can come up with a better personalized news experience than Facebook has created in its newsfeed."

Asked if the media should double down on user-generated content, Denton said journalists should not be merely focused on quantity.

"This is understanding; this is stories," he said. "You are trying to make the writer better help the reader understand, give the reader an opportunity to ask questions, and participate in stuff to make the whole process of the consumption of news or information into a more fun content party."

Denton’s comments came one month after Univision purchased Gawker Media for $135 million at auction, following a suit won by Hulk Hogan against the company. Univision bought the company’s entire portfolio of sites but shut down flagship soon after the sale.

Denton said it was "hard to see" how could have continued as it was.

"Gawker has always had an attraction to the juicy, messy, dramatic story," he said. "Maybe it’s appropriate that the site would live and ultimately be shuttered in a fashion as dramatic as any Gawker story."

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