Splinter, the left-leaning news site that in many respects succeeded Gawker after that digital brand’s legal meltdown, is closing down.
Seven employees who are members of the Gizmodo Media Group’s union were laid off as a result of the move, but they are expected to shift to roles at other sites within the company.
Gizmodo Media Group was renamed G/O Media after private equity firm Great Hill Partners acquired its portfolio, which includes Deadspin, Jezebel and Gizmodo, from Univision-owned Fusion Media earlier this year. Univision, a Hispanic media giant, had acquired the sites in 2016 as part of a bet on English-language platforms, only to unload them at a significant loss. Splinter traces its roots to 2013, when Fusion launched a cable network and digital operation in partnership with Disney.
One property in the Gizmodo mix that was not included in the 2016 acquisition was Gawker. The infamously provocative site was forced to shutter in 2016 after losing a lawsuit filed by former pro wrestler Hulk Hogan, who filed the complaint after Gawker posted a sex tape in which he appeared. Hogan’s legal effort was supported by tech titan Peter Thiel. Many media professionals and First Amendment activists decried the legal outcome of the Gawker case, though plenty of notable figures have lined up on the other side, saying Gawker lived and died by its scalpel-sharp pen.
Some Gawker writers stayed on at Gizmodo Media and the company created Splinter as a home for its news coverage, which gained currency after the 2016 presidential election. While it didn’t exactly replicate Gawker, Splinter provided a like-minded venue for enterprise reporting and cocked-eyebrow commentary on politics and general news.
Splinter’s editor, Aleksander Chan, confirmed Thursday’s news in a tweet. “As of today, Splinter will cease publication,” he wrote. “It has been my greatest honor to have been the editor of this site and I will love this staff to my dying breath. Thank you to all of our readers, fans, and haters—it’s been a thrill. Further details TK. Splinter forever.”
Gizmodo Media Group’s union also tweeted a reaction to the closing. “Splinter did the kind of fearless, adversorial journalism that represents the very best of our sites,” it wrote. “This loss hurts, and we’re worse off for it — particularly in the run-up to one of the most consequential elections of our lifetimes.”
Many reactions on Twitter also questioned the pre-election timing, but the reality is that digital publishing is less of a revenue-generating political advertising vehicle than television or other forms of media. The vast majority of online ad revenue is also largely controlled by Facebook and Google, which is an obstacle that has been slowing the progress of many once-high-flying digital brands of late. Consolidation has been one response to the duopoly’s power. Mergers between Vice Media and Refinery29, Group Nine and Pop Sugar and Vox and New York Media, all announced in recent weeks, have been prompted in large part by advertising pressures.
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