Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Gadget Gods Peter Rojas and Ryan Block Finally Unveil their Newest Gadget Site: Gdgt. Get it?

gdgt-logo-webDoes the world need another gadget site? Yes, say two of the gadget world’s biggest stars, who are launching gdgt.com today.

The site is the work of Peter Rojas, who helped build Gizmodo and Engadget, and Ryan Block, who took the torch from Rojas after he moved on. Gizmodo and Engadget are the best known and most powerful of the new generation of gadget sites, which makes Rojas and Block revered by the gadget gang. That’s why we’ve been hearing about gdgt, in dribs and drabs, for many many months.

But as well known as Rojas and Block are, they’re still going to have to work hard to make a dent in the crowded field. In addition to the two blogs they created, the gadget spectrum includes everyone from staid players like CBS’s (CBS) CNET to rumor sites for Apple (APPL) obsessives, like MacRumors, to sites for real obsessives, like the handful of people who still own Palm (PALM) Treos. (And, of course, there’s All Things Digital’s Walt Mossberg, who bestrides all of this like the colossus he is, and is also my boss. Hi, Walt!)

Rojas and Block argue that their site is different because it’s not going to be driven by editors but by the site’s users, who will gather there to swap info, stories, rumors, opinions, etc. In other words, Facebook for gadgets, though I gather they’d recoil if they heard that. The other pitch, though they won’t spell this out, either: Their site takes a bunch of features and content that you can find other places and presents them in a better way.

There’s a bunch of nifty features, like a gadget-finder that lets you find products via specs instead of brands, and the site seems to be pretty slick. But it’s better if you have a look yourself instead of having me describe it. And gdgt.com won’t really hit its stride until actual users start using it. I look forward to hearing what they have to say about my upcoming phone dilemma: iPhone 3GS, Palm Pre or Blackberry Tour?

But as much as Rojas and Block argue that this is a community site, it’s their names and reps that have people interested in the project. And that’s what has convinced investors to plow money into an ad-supported Web site in an era when the economy sucks and there are way too many ad-supported Web sites.

The duo won’t discuss funding, but I’m told that last fall they were discussing investments of up to $1 million, but ended up taking less than that via a group of VCs and angel investors. I don’t have a complete list of investors, but people familiar with the company tell me that early-stage investor True Ventures led the round, which also included New York-based incubator Betaworks and Mahalo’s Jason Calacanis.

Calacanis’s name will resonate with longtime followers of the tech blog world: He was one of the founders of Weblogs Inc., which created Engadget as a rival to Gawker Media’s Gizmodo, and hired Rojas away from Gizmodo. Calacanis eventually sold Weblogs Inc. to Time Warner’s (TWX) AOL for a decent pile of cash, some of which I believe ended up in Rojas’s lap.

Click the image below to see a screenshot of what gdgt’s homepage ought to look like.

gdgthome-page1


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald