The first version of Gawker, the iconic new media website based in New York, lasted for 14 years before it was driven out of business by the combined might of billionaire Peter Thiel’s resentment and Hulk Hogan’s embarrassed penis. They’ve made documentaries about this.
The second version of Gawker would last barely 18 months before dying without ceremony or fanfare last week. But not before some staffers began leaking about their powerful owner and his attempt to shield his friends from the site’s notoriously snarky staff.
Bryan Goldberg (owner of Bustle, Elite Daily and, once upon a time, sports clickbait factory Bleacher Report) bought the rights to Gawker out of bankruptcy after The Hulk’s lawsuit against the site for publishing excerpts from his sex tape resulted in a $140 million judgment. Goldberg announced Gawker 2.0 in 2019 but it didn’t launch until Summer 2021. This new Gawker was visually quite amazing but broke few stories of consequence before Goldberg sprang forward to announce it was being zippered up on February 1, 2023 due to parent company Bustle Digital Group “facing a surprisingly difficult first quarter of 2023.”
The second demise of Gawker has lead to allegations that Goldberg feared his new property, and kept it on a tight leash, lest a resuscitated Gawker bite the hands of his friends and the clients of his notoriously obsequious company. Writing for The Daily Beast, Lachlan Cartwright alleged that Goldberg even gave his staff an “unofficial list of pals the site was not allowed to cover.” Among the names on the list were what Cartwright describes as the “terrible DJ duo,” The Chainsmokers:
A spokesperson for Bustle Digital Group responded by saying the list was of “people with whom [Goldberg] or the company had significant financial ties in case it needed to be disclosed” and claimed Goldberg had “zero involvement” protecting the reputation of The Chainsmokers or anyone else.
It’s worth questioning here what is attracting so many entrepreneurs and wantrepreneurs to this “terrible DJ duo,” and if this level of billionaire patronage is perhaps what best explains the Chainsmokers’ bewildering popularity.
The Chainsmokers role in the demise of Gawker would mark the second time in the last year we’ve found them high-fiving and finger-gunning their way through the collapse of digital juggernaut. A year ago, a doomed tech company called “Fast” arranged to pay the Chainsmokers a cool $1 million for a gig at a retail conference as well as doing a promotional video with Fast’s fame-hungry CEO Dominic Holland. At the time, Fast was broke — having plowed through $100 million in investment, Fast would lay off all employees and shut down less than three months later.
The event never happened due to the spread of the Omicron varient, much to the consternation of The Chainsmokers’ management, which continued burning up Fast’s phones trying to close the deal for a make-up gig and a video where they pretend to be Fast CEO Holland’s friends.
For good reason: the proposed fee to the Chainsmokers would have paid more than Fast had earned in revenue for the entire year:
In 2020, the Chainsmokers had played a high-ticket concert in the Hamptons in which the rich guests violated practically ever pandemic restriction in existence. (Among the other talent sharing the bill with the Chainsmokers was Goldman Sachs CEO and fellow terrible DJ, David Solomon.)
“For some reason,” we wrote in June, “the Chainsmokers frequently wind up as supporting characters in stories about sickeningly wealthy people doing sickening things.” And here they are again.
They may be terrible at playing records, making records, etc. Yet as puzzling as their success may be, the Chainsmokers have certainly nailed down the coveted “asshole billionaire” demographic.
The Come Up Show, CC BY 2.0