Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Naked Brett Favre Won't Make Money for Nick Denton

Gawker Media’s Deadspin sports site says it will publish nude photos of Brett Favre today, along with some voicemails it says the quarterback left for a woman who is not his wife.

Which means that corner of Deadspin is going to be very, very popular today.

As well as unprofitable, says Gawker Media owner Nick Denton.

“These things are always money-losers,” Denton says via IM, before referring me to Gawker Media marketing director Erin Pettigrew for more.

But while I wait for her to get back to me, I can make some educated guesses to explain why lots of traffic won’t mean lots of money for Denton today.

  • It’s hard to serve ads into traffic spikes. Or at least that’s what Denton always says about his most popular posts, like the iPhone 4 prototype that Gizmodo showed off to Apple’s dismay, or a sorta-sex tape featuring “McSteamy” from “Grey’s Anatomy,” etc.
  • In this case, Gawker is very likely to serve up the Favre post without any advertising, anyway. When I interviewed Denton onstage at an Advertising Week event last week, I asked him specifically about how advertisers feel about “athlete dong” photos, which his readers love. His answer, in short, was that advertisers are understandably squeamish about this stuff, and can opt out of posts that contain it in advance. Have to assume this is one of those cases.

Requisite to-be-sure: Denton runs a for-profit business, and he won’t run athlete dong photos or anything else unless he can make money doing it.

So while those individual pageviews that the post generates won’t make him money, those visitors may well end up visiting other, dong-free posts on Gawker sites today, which will have ads.

And of course, the post will give Gawker and Deadspin that much more publicity, as mainstream media outlets that would never stoop to running athlete dong photos find time to talk about the site that did. (Cough.)

UPDATE: Sure enough, both the Favre post and the rest of Deadspin are currently ad-free. Via e-mail, Erin Pettigrew explains why that’s so:

In the case of major ad/edit adjacency issues such as this, we have a cadre of tech tools to handle the display conflict. Usually the decision is made to prevent ads from showing next to NSFW or similarly questionable content and then the tech solution is put into place to effect that immediately after. The tech tools range from removing ads on a per-post basis to scanning post content for particular topics against which we can negatively target ads.

If the adjacency affects takeovers and sponsorships where ad inventory cannot be otherwise rerouted, we communicate the scenario upfront to the client and involve them in the decision-making. The same tech solutions then apply.

It’s the classic airplane ad next to an airliner crash scenario for which publishers need to develop contingencies. For this particular scoop, the decision was indeed to clean the Favre post pages of ads.

I saw your note about spikes — you are correct that we aren’t able to instantly match ad demand to the surge of inventory supply caused by traffic spikes. This is because our inventory is 100% directly sold versus hawked by real time auction marketplaces. More pageviews does not directly equal more dollars! Also, note that our ad bookings close weeks to months before creative hits the websites. So, unless a spike is ‘scheduled,’ it can’t really be sold.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik