BlogBeat: Gothamist Sells Out to Cablevision, James Dolan Presumably Excited to Ruin Another News Outlet

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Gothamist -- the New York City metro news blog and subsequent locally-based "Ist" properties -- long a punchline among bloggers who poked at its overly excitable tones about the varying news minutiae it covered, finally gave themselves something to giggle over: a long-rumored multi-million dollar buyout possibly coming to fruition. But for whom, and at what cost?

Well, according to Paid Content:

Gothamist, the local city blog network that is best known for its New York City edition, is being acquired by Cablevision-owned Rainbow Media, paidContent has learned. Between $5 million to $6 million, though we understand a good portion of that is a performance-based earnout.

That said, Gillian Reagan at Business Insider has noted that the deal with Rainbow Media/Cablevision is supposedly still being hammered out, but also corroborated the "performance-based earnout" aspect of the deal.

One one hand, online news properties that convince larger companies to buy it out are -- with a few exceptions -- going to be pretty happy with anything that comes before the word "million" at this point, especially one like Gothamist owner Jake Dobkin's, which has been running strong for seven years. But again, on the other hand, performance-based earnout?

Depending on how true it is, and how strict the deal's earnout performance rubric is, that would mean that Dobkin's going to have to actually exhibit his media network's worth over a period of time, which most bloggers don't have to do. There's always the possibility that this could come with some kind of enhancement to help Gothamist get there, but still, depending on how draconian the earnout is, it could be a good deal from Cablevision's end. Keyword: could. It's also a pretty price for something that hasn't exactly seen exponential growth over the last three years. Then again, it's probably better than the progress they've made with Newsday, which was definitely laughed at when it was revealed by the New York Observer in January that the Cablevision-owned Long Island newspaper had only seen the purchase 35 new online subscriptions in the three months following the paper's content going behind a pretty concrete paywall. So their basis for comparison might be skewed.

It's worth noting that Dobkin has had an interesting few months leading up to this.

  • Via NYC the Tumblr, Gawker owner Nick Denton noted rumors of a Gothamist sale back in December, which were denied by Gothamist, who noted that they'd spoken with interested parties, but that nothing was happening. Not so much, as was apparently the case.
  • In Februrary. Dobkin posted a vehemently angry anti-New York Times mash note to his Facebook wall, decrying the Times' metro coverage blog City Room as a "ripoff" of Gothamist.
  • A little over a month later, a New York Times ad consumed Gothamist to comic effect, with an ad layout reminiscent of Jules Verne's submarine being overtaken by a giant squid.
  • Finally, just this weekend, Dobkin trashed the Times again, as well as the owner of a fellow New York-based blog network specializing in local properties, Lockhart Steele of Curbed Media. Dobkin noted of a Times profile of Steele via Twitter that he "didn't realize that the Times was allowed to feature blowjobs this explicit!"

Which raises the question:

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Wonder how Dobkin's gonna feel with Jimmy Dolan's cock in his mouth?

Depending on whether or not the deal goes through -- a fact that has yet to be confirmed -- one could speculate something along the lines of "relatively occupied." The Cablevision chairman isn't exactly a friend of the media's. For example:

  • The Dolan-owned New York Knicks' management enjoys an out-and-out hostile relationship with the sports media.
  • The Long Island Press recently ran an entire story entitled "How Cablevision Is Destroying Newsday," a paper considered by many to be an "institution" by many, including the writer of the Press' piece on it.
  • And last October, Jimmy Dolan intimidated CityFile owner (and newly appointed Gawker editor) Remy Stern with legal costs after filing a lawsuit over a post that went up on CityFile. Stern resigned his position on the item. Which was about the Rockettes being considered for replacement at Radio City Music Hall.

That said, when you've been hustling away at a plucky blog network for seven years, as long as you don't have to literally fellate any media investors, and you're fine with the possibility of having your product completely compromised by corporate interests while hustling for traffic against performance incentives to get paid out, for Jake Dobkin and Gothamist, it's probably not such a bad deal.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]

Update: Gawker Media owner Nick Denton notes that one should "hold off on the envy" regarding the deal. As if there were that much to begin with.


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