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ONE LEAVES, ONE ARRIVES: Last Friday, the media and celebrity blog Jossip went dark — “on hiatus,” it was said. And on Monday, in a separate but related development, Theawl.com was born, with a tagline, “Be less stupid,” that refers not only to the news commentary site’s intention to inform readers, but also to spare its writers from covering traffic-baiting topics they don’t care about. The co-founders are Choire Sicha and Alex Balk, veterans of Gawker, Radar, and The New York Observer, who both seem to favor targeted, witty wrath over indiscriminate bile. “I don’t want to write about what’s horrible all day,” Sicha said. “Not everything has to be dreary.”
And whereas Jossip founder David Hauslaib — who did not respond to a request for comment — has said he got into the blog business during the boom times of 2003 in part because he coveted Gawker’s advertising page rates, The Awl’s business plan so far is at best nebulous. David Cho, who was head of business development on Radar’s Web site and is working on The Awl, said investors and a “blue-chip” sponsor had initially been involved but fell through. Instead, they opted to launch with a bare-bones, personally funded site with what appear to be third-party banner ads, and take it from there. “Making money on the Internet is at a weird place right now,” Cho admitted. “No one knows how to monetize audiences.” The Awl, he said, was staying “lean and flexible,” and hoping that its built-in audience — the writers’ existing fans, who are already signing on as commenters — and educated demographic could sweeten a deal.
Both Sicha and Balk in past years had publicly disagreed with the direction Nick Denton took Gawker. Denton himself reacted to the site on Twitter: “The confusing name and amateurish design of theawl.com could be a deliberate antidote to the pro[fessional] Web. Or just be confusing and amateurish.” He conceded that “the writing is predictably excellent though.”
Sicha said one possible direction for the site was toward online newspapering. “If I had $42,000, I’d hire a reporter,” he said. When it was suggested that in today’s media job market, he could have one for significantly less, Sicha exclaimed, “But I don’t want to pay someone that little!” For now, free will suffice. — I.C.