The edgy, controversial Gawker Media is the shining star in the blogosphere, valued at an astonishing $300 million. In a move to further expand its reach, Gawker Media acquired CityFile on Feb 15th, an online directory of celebrities and media personalities. Gawker’s CityFile acquisition is in-line with the gossip blog network’s focus on celebrities and media personalities. It will enable Gawker to incorporate CityFile’s 2,144 NYC notables into Gawker content. This is the latest move in Gawker’s impressive path to success.

“The family of Gawker sites has become at once a publishing success and part of the contemporary New York bohemian scene, like Andy Warhol’s factory in the 1960s,” writes Financial Times. Indeed, Gawker has sparked a digital counter-culture revolution by pushing boundaries, inflaming “the establishment” and flaunting insider information.

Gawker Media has a presence in a range of markets, including celebrity, sports, auto, tech, sci-fi and more. The blog network has 8 publications with over 20 million monthly unique users, 250 million pageviews and $60 million in annual advertising revenue. Gawker’s operation costs are minimal — primarily web hosting fees and staff salaries — with at least 50% of its revenue as operating income. How has Gawker reached such milestones? We will explore how Gawker Media differentiates itself, engages users, generates buzz, monetizes its sizable audience and what you can learn.

Much of Gawkers success can be attributed to their rebel, editorial voice and Gonzo-esque attitude:

The Gawker Voice

“Gawker became a strangely addictive force on the Internet by ridiculing all manner of media people, often in bitingly harsh terms,” writes The Washington Post. Gawker Media has distinguished itself as a clear leader by leveraging a consistent, irreverent editorial voice across numerous niche topics. Accordingly, Gawker has built a loyal core following of passionate users. The New York Times captures Gawkers success perfectly: “[Gawker Media] appeals to a young, urban demographic, with a roster of editors whose strong voices inspire loyal following.”

User Engagement

Not only does Gawker engage users and influencers with edgy, provocative content online, the blog network also captivates users through offline events. Every day, Gawker Media receives 2,500 news commenters with a total of 23,000 comments from its 900k commenter population. Gawker also engages their niche communities through events (i.e. sponsored parties), contests (with over 1,600 participants), groups (Gawker Artists exhibits the work of 1,024 artists) and trips (Heineken paid for Gawker guests to enjoy a trip to North Carolina).

Viral Potential

Consider the web an infinitely large watercooler where gossip and outrageous stories spread like wildfire. Gawker has tapped into the watercooler concept by publishing edgy content that is then virally promoted on social media networks — much like office gossip. In fact, Gawker content is four times more likely to be promoted through blogs and social networking sites by it’s user base than other internet sites. Moreover, Gawker provides nearly real-time updates about the latest gossip, much like Perez Hilton — making users fiend for the latest scoop.

Monetizing Content

“The audience [Gawker] bring together tends to be influencers in… tech, media, fashion and pop culture,” writes Carrie Frolich, managing digital director for Mediaedge:cia, AdAge. “It’s an affluent and intelligent audience that reads the site, which is generally what marketers are looking for.” Many advertisers want to align their brand with Gawker’s passionate user-base. Sprint, Samsung and T-Mobile are among the core advertisers on Gawker Media. The alternative web-rag offers alternative advertising solutions beyond site banner advertisements. For instance, Heineken sponsored a documented trip to North Carolina for Gawker guests that was then posted on the blog network. Moreover, advertisers can sponsor events, parties and user meetups.

Takeaway

Gawker Media is the most valuable blogging network, surpassing the Huffington Post with a valuation estimate of $300 million. How did Gawker reach such heights? Through controversial material and an edgy editorial voice, Gawker generates buzz and sparks discussions with loyal fans and inflames opponents. Gawker taps into the niche markets with a consistent edgy voice and provocative content that differentiates itself from existing competitors.

The Gawker Media Fact Sheet:

Gawker — Gossip

Audience: College educated, upper income white young professionals
Visitor Status: Growing
PR: 8/10
Key Competitors: NY Magazine, People Magazine, TMZ, Huffington Post

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DeadSpin — Sports News

Audience: College educated, middle income white young professionals
Visitor Status: Growing
PR: 7/10
Key Competitors: ESPN, AOL Fanhouse, SB Nation, Yardbarker Sports Media Network, Yahoo! Sports
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Kotaku — Gamer’s Guide

Audience: College educated, lower income white young professionals
Visitor Status: Leveling
PR: 8/10
Key Competitors: GameSpot, Spike.com, UGO, IGN Gaming, GamePro
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Jezebel — Celebrity, Sex and Fashion for Women

Audience: College educated, lower income white young professionals
Visitor Status: Growing
PR: 7/10
Key Competitors: E! Online, Glamour, Blogher, InStyle, iVillage, Style.com
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io9 — Sci-Fi

Audience: College educated, middle income white young professionals
Visitor Status: Growing
PR: 7/10
Key Competitors: Boing Boing, TV.com, DiscoveryChannel, Treehugger, Scientific American, SciFi
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Jalopnik — Auto News
Audience: College educated, middle income white young professionals
Visitor Status: Leveling
PR: 7/10
Key Competitors: AOL – Auto, Car & Driver, MSN Autos, SpeedTV, Road & Track
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Gizmodo — Gadget Guide
Audience: College educated, upper income white young professionals
Visitor Status: Growing Steadily
PR: 8/10
Key Competitors: Ars Technica, Wired, CNET, Engadget, PC World, G4
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Lifehacker — Tip Guide
Audience: College educated, upper income white young professionals
Visitor Status: Growing
PR: 7/10
Key Competitors: eHow, HowStuffWorks, G4, ReadWriteWeb, Mashable,