My Pitch For A Successor Site To Gawker.com
by Shelton Bumgarner
I have a lot of experience in starting a publication from nothing. Almost exactly 10 years ago to the day, I started a magazine for expatriates in Seoul, South Korea called ROKon Magazine. I don’t have any copies to show you personally, but it existed. I promise. I swear.
I learned not only that I have a knack for starting something from nothing, but also for strategic thinking and managing “creative types.” It was that which allowed me to guide ROKon Magazine from a 200 photocopied piece of crap to a 3,000 full color glossy magazine.
Everything I learned about publishing I learned in the most difficult, painful manner possible. But I did learn it. I learned some basic things that if if someone believed in me enough to give me the resources — however minor — I could probably grow a site pretty quickly into a powerhouse.
Here are the things I need.
1. A dedicated Webserver
2. The bandwidth needed to support a growing site
3. Some advertising just to goose initial interest.
Annie Shapiro and I at the height of ROKon Magazine.
If I could get those basic things from someone, then I feel I, personally, could generate enough traffic in my writing that we could put ads on the site and then hire someone to cover EDM and fashion. Covering media, EDM and fashion I feel would be something a lot of people would enjoy. Or, put another way, just as BuzzFeed does all those stupid traffic generating things and then turns around and does hard journalism, I think if you do a really great job covering EDM and fashion that the rather dull (to the outsider) subject of media would tag along for the ride.
Right now, as best I can tell, there is no site like what Gawker.com _used_ to be when it started. There is not site right now is orney and weird and a bit snarky that aspires to be mainstream while at the same time covers the Byzantine world of the New York Times, et al. Maybe it exists and I don’t know about it, maybe not.
In other words, just as ROKOn Magazine — the magazine I started in Seoul — was started because I wanted something to read, so, too, would this site essentially be focused on me as an audience member. I want a site that I, personally, would obsess over and visit frequently during the course of the day. In other words, it would, in part, be an aspirational brand. It would be a brand for aspiring writers to read and say, “Dude, I want to be like those guys. I want to write like that.”
Now, this is the point where I say some basic things. I am flat broke, I am too old, I live in the wrong city and I haven’t really done much with my life since ROKon Magazine but dwell upon its failure. But I swear that if I could get an investor to believe in me that something astonishingly great would happen.
One of the early covers of ROKon Magazine
Anyway, another core thing to help goose traffic would be to find a young, attractive, smart woman to act as a roving reporter or “mascot” of sorts for the site. I honestly don’t care specifically who it was, but she should have a great personality and be willing to do rather random things at the site’s behest. I have suggested in the past women like Alexa Chung, Tavi Givenson and Ilana Glazer, but it doesn’t really matter. She just needs to live the general New York City area and have the time and inclination to run around the city doing little video shorts using her phone. You could pick someone out of obscurity and save lot of money if push came to shove.
So, I guess I need to talk about the risks if I’m going to do a proper pitch.
The risks are enormous, but manageable. One issue is it is possible that the Web has changed so dramatically from when Gawker.com started that, well, it’s almost impossible for a simple old blog to do as I propose. And there are some pretty well funded and established competitors that could probably crush a site without too much trouble.
Here is where my enormous ego comes into play. I feel that my personal world view is sufficiently unique that I could produce content that would really get people talking. I did it with ROKon Magazine and I could do it on a national and international level given the resources. I am a huge fan of Spy Magazine and Late Night With David Letterman and that is the sensibility I would imbue the site with. I am a unique person and my personal editorial vision is sufficiently different that it, in self, would generate buzz.
This begs the question, obviously, “Then why not do it by yourself now, smarty pants?”
Good question. I guess because I obsess over my Webstats so much that I need the dough to do a least a modicum of advertising so I can get that mainline rush of seeing traffic grow in realtime. If it’s just me screwing around, generally no one cares. But if could get a investor with just an itty-bitty amount of initial startup cash to help me that would make something go click! in my mind and I would get back to my old ROKon Magazine mindset. I guess that is one of the things I learned from the disaster that was ROKon Magazine — I need a business partner. Really, really bad.
Anyway. This is pretty much just a summer daydream at this point. I really enjoy writing and this gives me something to write about. It reminds me of the Nelly song where he says he has a “pole in the basement” and he’s “just joking” unless “you’re really going to do it.” So, in other words, this is just an idle summer daydream until someone actually takes me up on it, gives me some traction.
If I got some concrete, measurable traction on this proposal I would first freak out then I would turn tap into everything I learned from ROKon Magazine and say, “Let’s rock!”
Shelton Bumgarner is a writer and photographer in Richmond, Va. If you want to understand what he’s talking about in context, read this → Somehow.pdf and this → TheBattleofTheOldFreeStatev1.5. And if you really want to see what he has in him, here’s his resume –> SheltonBumgarnerRESUME5