Gawker Media filed for bankruptcy on Friday, after saying in Florida court that it cannot pay the $140.1 million awarded to actor Hulk Hogan in a case bankrolled by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. (The full filing, which is not juicy, is at the end of this post.)
Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy does not mean that Gawker Media is shutting down. Instead, it buys it time to negotiate with its creditors and come up with a plan to emerge from bankruptcy. In this case, the plan is to sell the company, which has remained independent for its entire 14 years. Ziff Davis (owner of distinctly un-Gawker-y publications like PCMag and Geek.com) has made a binding offer of $90 to $100 million, and the company expects to receive additional offers.
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) June 10, 2016
“We have been forced by this litigation to give up our longstanding independence, but our writers remain committed to telling the true stories that underpin credibility with our millions of readers,” Gawker Media Group founder Nick Denton said in a press release. “With stronger backing and disentangled from litigation, they can perform their vital work on more platforms and in different forms.”
Even with his billions, Thiel will not silence our writers. Our sites will thrive — under new ownership — and we'll win in court.
— Nick Denton (@nicknotned) June 10, 2016
In a company memo acquired by Recode, Ziff Davis CEO Vivek Shaw never mentioned Gawker’s flagship property Gawker.com:
In the event we become the acquirer, the additions of Gizmodo, Lifehacker and Kotaku would fortify our position in consumer tech and gaming. With the addition of Jalopnik, Deadspin and Jezebel, we would broaden our position as a lifestyle publisher. Much like us, GMG is heavily active in driving commerce-based revenues and has an impressive publishing and commerce platform with Kinja.
As you can see, there’s a tremendous fit between the two organizations, from brands to audience to monetization. We look forward to the possibility of adding these great brands — and the talented people who support them — to the Ziff Davis family.
Now there's a name I haven't heard since the late 90s https://t.co/idNvoaoFBp
— Alastair Coote (@_alastair) June 10, 2016
Any good investigative editor sees this Gawker news today and immediately assigns a reporter to Peter Thiel, yes?
— Andrew Golis (@agolis) June 10, 2016
Big media news: The popular chatting program is broken https://t.co/WxvhHEBEfD
— Gawker (@Gawker) June 10, 2016
Thanks, Peter Thiel, for all the traffic! pic.twitter.com/EVliBBD4bO
— Nick Denton (@nicknotned) June 10, 2016
Photo of Gawker’s Big Board by Scott Beale.
This post was updated several times on Friday.
Cosmopolitan has hired Esther Perel to pen a new monthly column titled Close Encounters With Esther Perel.
Perel is a practicing psychotherapist, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, an AASECT certified sex therapist, and a member of the American Family Therapy Academy and the Society for Sex Therapy and Research. She is also the author of the best-selling book Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence and has consulted for Showtime’s The Affair.
Perel’s column will explore the psychology of love and sex. Her first piece is available in Cosmo’s July issue, on newsstands now.
Bon Appétit publisher and chief revenue officer Pamela Drucker Mann is feeling great these days because people can’t seem to get enough food content.
During an interview on The Wall Street Journal’s Media Mix podcast, Drucker Mann said sales have been up for the past two years. Also, about 60 percent of Bon Appétit’s revenue now comes from digital ads, compared with 40 percent from print. Drucker Mann insisted that doesn’t mean print is hurting.
“We haven’t actually had an erosion in print,” she explained. “This is a really big moment in food, so in some ways consumers are looking for food wherever they can get it, and advertisers are also looking to spend where they feel like those users and consumers are.”
The Yahoo sale might rake in more than we all thought it would. According to CNBC, the company has received multiple offers of $5 billion or more for its core businesses.
Suddenly, Verizon—which has been the frontrunner to acquire Yahoo from day one—is seemingly on the outside looking in. The telecom giant’s bid was rumored to be only around $3 billion.
Yahoo’s board will now consider all the bids, with the best entering the final round next week. The sale process is expected to conclude sometime next month.
The Washington Post was preparing to publish an editorial on the Obama administration’s move, in December of 2014, to restore ties with Cuba, when executive editor Marty Baron asked about a Spanish translation. (Fun fact: Baron, born and raised in Tampa, speaks fluent Spanish.)
“Marty came and said, so we’re doing this story about Cuba. Who are we getting to translate this into Spanish?” Jeremy Gilbert, the Post’s director of strategic initiatives, recalled.
That editorial became one of the first Post stories made available in both English and Spanish online. Gilbert, who works under one of the Post’s two managing editors, Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, said his team was already prepared for this kind of request, and began experimenting with workflows.
The Post has since translated a handful of relevant foreign news stories, such as Cuba or Zika virus coverage, and exclusive stories, such as interviews with two former Mexican presidents about Trump’s plans for a wall (an “estúpido muro”). It has had to be deliberate about which few stories to translate, and how to distribute them, whether on the Post website, through its news wire services, or social channels.
“We were convinced that there is a need for translated articles, but we hadn’t hit on the right formulation in terms of how to get a professionalized translation that’s turned around quickly enough for our purposes,” Gilbert said. “At the base level, we’re experimenting with which articles we’re translating and how frequently we’re translating, to build a real audience for them. We’re looking at very specific articles that could have a little bit more life, that we could translate and just leave up there.”
Explainers about the American political process fit the bill. People from outside the U.S. want some guidance on the 2016 election circus, Gilbert said, and traffic from international areas is “one of the fastest-growing segments of the Post’s audience.” In April, the Post’s website saw 19.5 million international readers, according to Omniture data. (The international percentage of the site’s total online audience can’t be shared, a spokesperson told me, because the publication only shares comScore numbers publicly and doesn’t have a comScore figure for international readers.)
Articles like this recent explainer on low voter turnout include facts that may seem obvious to a U.S. readership (“Election Day in the United States is not a national holiday, and voting isn’t compulsory”); that post allows readers to toggle between English, Portuguese, French, and Italian versions. It is, as the article’s preface notes explicitly, “part of our attempt to reach new readers who are interested in American politics — but perhaps don’t speak English or understand how American government works.”
The Post has translated several other politics explainers — “Why are there only two parties in American politics?” “Why do American elections last so long?” “What happens if nobody wins the nomination before the convention?” — and is publishing them online throughout the summer, as well as distributing them to “hundreds of international clients” through its wire service. For its set of political explainers, the Post pays a company for professional translations, and staffers also read them over.
“Part of our challenge is, the things Americans learn in civics classes, we never explain in our articles. We just say there is a primary coming up, but not why is there a primary. We say the Republican or Democratic party, but not why there are two parties,” Gilbert said. “For the election-related explainers, we challenged our copyeditors to re-edit the stories written by our politics team assuming no knowledge. They still have concepts and analogies and knowledge that might not translate smoothly.”
The Post had surveyed news wire clients to gauge interest from different countries in the topics and received requests for far more languages than it could handle, so it started with areas where there appeared to be the largest audiences. (If you’re thinking it all sounds a bit Eurocentric, the team did also distribute Mandarin Chinese versions of the explainers, but Chinese isn’t available online due to issues rendering the text. The Post is working on the template so it will be supported.)
It’s difficult to determine how many times an individual translation has been viewed because articles are distributed to so many news wire clients, but so far the translations have been well received, according to Gilbert. Paid social posts targeting speakers of specific languages have also been effective.
But currently, a French speaker who lands on, say, the article “Pourquoi les élections américaines durent-elles aussi longtemps?” won’t find much else to read on the Post’s website.
@rkellett Wow, since when do we publish articles in French?
— Julie Zauzmer (@JulieZauzmer) May 6, 2016
“One of the reasons we are publishing on our site is to see if we can start building an actual audience who will come to us. As we publish more in those various languages, we can start to link from one explainer to another within, for instance, Spanish or Italian or French,” Gilbert said. “Going forward, we’d love to add Arabic, Tagalog — there are a couple of others we’d for sure like to do, like Russian. We’ll continue to add languages as long as we can see growth in audience interest.”
So far, rolling out the political explainer set “has felt like the smartest investment,” but the Post has also discussed doing something similar around the Olympics or the impeachment efforts in Brazil.
“We’re committed to winning the largest audience for all the kinds of reporting that we do, and that audience is going to be international as well as national,” Gilbert said. “And that probably will mean more translated stories.”
Photo of the Rosetta Stone by Clinton, used under a Creative Commons license.
In the 79th minute of last fall’s Rugby World Cup Final, New Zealand fly-half Beauden Barrett scored a try to ice the All Blacks’ victory over rival Australia.
Seconds after Barrett downed the ball, a graphic mapping the score appeared in the live blog that the British newspaper The Telegraph was using to cover the match in real-time.
The infographic was produced by Roboblogger, an experimental project the British newspaper launched last year to use real-time data to create charts and infographics for liveblogs.
Roboblogger ingests real-time statistics from Opta, a U.K. sports data firm, then spits out graphics and charts. For the Rugby World Cup, the graphics showed how each team scored from various points on the field, the number of tackles they made, the distance they carried the ball, and more. Telegraph editors and reporters got the graphics and charts in a feed and added them into the liveblog manually.
The Telegraph has now transitioned to focus on soccer, a more popular sport with richer data to analyze. It will roll out the latest version of Roboblogger for its live coverage of the European Championship, which kicks off Friday in France.
The paper is now working to further streamline Roboblogger by developing automated processes that determine the most interesting or significant plays and add them straight to the liveblog, so staffers can focus on their own commentary.
The Telegraph received a €300,000 (USD $342,222) grant from Google’s European Digital News Initiative to create Roboblogger. The paper announced cutbacks last month, but the Google funding enabled it to hire three contract employees for a six-month period that runs through September. After that, The Telegraph plans to integrate Roboblogger into its normal editorial operations.
“It was previously impossible to do graphics in live articles,” said Adriaan Pelzer, Telegraph head of editorial development, who is leading the project. “You can’t get a graphics desk to sit there and furiously punch out graphics; it’s too slow. Doing it automatically makes sense.”
The Telegraph decided to focus its efforts for this type of coverage, at least for now, on sports because there’s an abundance of well-structured data.
The paper is using a two-pronged strategy to build out Roboblogger’s automated selection process. It’s developing a rule set that triggers the creation of a chart along with a more advanced rankings system.
For the rule set, the developers established various metrics that prompt infographics or charts to be presented to the editors. After a goal is scored, for example, a graphic is produced that shows all the passes and runs that led to the goal.
Roboblogger is also able to set rules for less obvious data — a certain number of passes in a row or a specific distance covered on the field — and turn those into graphics as well.
To help staffers decide which graphics to include in liveblogs, developers are building an interface that will show numerous graphics at once and indicates — with color or some other sign — which ones might be interesting enough to be auto-published.
In addition to the Euro 2016 games this summer, the developers have been populating Roboblogger with datasets from old matches. “That provides us with a very strong signal of what our rule thresholds should be,” Pelzer said.”
The rankings system, meanwhile, is being developed to include a more nuanced understanding of player performance. Pelzer compared it to Google’s PageRank, which uses different factors to measure the importance of web pages.
The Telegraph’s ranking system assigns scores to each player, and it’s able to pick up on things that the simpler rule-based approach wouldn’t notice. If a player who hasn’t done particularly well in a competition suddenly starts doing better, for example, that sudden movement could be a signal to start increasing the likelihood of sharing graphs where the player is involved.
The finished product will ideally combine the rankings and rule-based approaches. The Telegraph hopes to add in the ranking system in August when the new Premier League season starts. At that point, editors will be able to set up parameters for individual games because they’ll know the tendencies of each team and which types of plays to expect.
The Telegraph introduced a new CMS earlier this year, designed to support live coverage. But Roboblogger has also helped boost the speed of live posts, Pelzer said. Often, the live blog is run by a journalist in the newsroom and the TV feed is a few seconds behind real-time, meaning that results come in from Roboblogger before they show up on TV.
“Editors started using it as a cue,” Pelzer said. “They are under a very high amount of pressure when they do these live blogs.”
Photo by Jon Candy used under a Creative Commons license.
BuzzFeed news editor Ben Smith wants everyone to know that the site’s news coverage isn’t going anywhere.
Amid rumors that BuzzFeed was focusing more on lucrative entertainment and video content and less on news, Smith pushed back.
“We’ve never seen news and entertainment as being in competition with each other,” Smith said, according to Politico. “Our experience is that people always want to know what is going on in the world, whether that’s news or entertainment or a mix of both.”
“News has always been a pillar of great media companies,” he added.
Two questions: 1) What did you think Smith was going to say? 2) BuzzFeed is a great media company?
The NewsGuild of New York has rejected the latest contract proposal from Time Inc. The contract would’ve covered staffers for SI, People, Time, Fortune and Money.
To make things more complicated, both sides are fighting over how many people voted. The NewsGuild said that the contract was rejected by an “overwhelming majority” of those voting. Time Inc., however, countered that voter turnout was low.
Our understanding is that only 15 percent of the Guild membership voted to reject our offer,” said Time Inc. executive vp and chief of human resources Greg Giangrande. “That’s a miniscule minority not an overwhelming majority.”
Time Inc. NewsGuild have been working without a contract since the summer of 2014.
In an extract from his new book Finding Stories with Spreadsheets, Paul Bradshaw explains how to use basic cleaning functions in spreadsheets to make it easier to combine data, including a case study where the same functions were used to speed up a research process for a story.
Whenever I’m working on a story involving combining data, it’s likely I will need to clean that data up in some way. Thankfully, Excel has a number of functions that take care of that repetitive work. We’ll cover many of these throughout the book, but we begin with the simplest: TRIM, CLEAN and SUBSTITUTE.
Those Pesky Spaces
The most basic is TRIM. This will trim extra spaces at the beginning and end of any cell. Spaces can be particularly problematic when working with data: you can’t see them, but the computer can. And if it’s trying to match two pieces of data – for example a region’s crime rate and the population for the same region – it will not match them if the region name has a space after it in one of the entries.
TRIM needs only one ingredient: the cell you want to trim spaces from. If you wanted to trim cell A2, then, you would write a formula like so:
The example above simply takes whatever is in A2, removes any spaces at the end and beginning, and puts it in the cell where you type the formula.
You can then copy this formula down the entire column to apply it to each cell in turn (A3, then A4, and so on), creating a new ‘trimmed’ or ‘cleaned’ column.
Find and Replace
The Replace… option is in the Edit menu
Sometimes what looks like a space may actually be a slightly different character, which TRIM will not affect. In this case you may want to use the Replace… option in the Edit menu.
Before you select Replace… double-click on the cell containing the pesky non-space character and then click and drag to select only that character. Then copy it (the quickest way is CTRL+C or CMD+C on a Mac).
Once your Replace window is open paste it into the first box (Find what:). Leave the second box empty because you want to replace it with nothing. Click Replace all to see the results. It should also tell you how many replacements it’s made. That number should match the number of cells you think contain the character. If it’s higher it may have affected other cells as well.
If your problematic space is always in the same position (for example the first character) then you can also look into using the REPLACE function – dealt with in a later chapter.
Getting Rid of ‘Non-Printing’ Characters: CLEAN
The CLEAN function is designed to remove a number of invisible characters which are different to the basic space character and so cannot be dealt with by TRIM (although they will probably be dealt with individually by using find and replace as detailed above).
You can find a list of these characters at Ascii-code.com: they include things like carriage return, escape, back space and horizontal tab.
You use CLEAN just as you do TRIM: the function followed by a cell reference in parentheses like so:
The result will be the contents of A2 minus any of those non printing characters.
You can of course combine both like so:
This uses the results of TRIM(A2) as the ingredient for the CLEAN function, so both are applied.
And or Ampersand? Substituting Particular Words or Characters
Spaces and non-printing characters are one thing, but what if you want to deal with other characters? That’s where SUBSTITUTE comes in. This is a cell-by-cell version of the Find and Replace option, which gives you much more control.
SUBSTITUTE needs three ingredients: the cell with the text you want to work with; what particular character or characters you want to substitute in that (if they are there); and what you want to replace that with.
There’s also a fourth, optional, ingredient: how many times you want to do the replacing.
SUBSTITUTE is particularly useful when you have one set of data which uses one convention, and a second which uses a different one, or a set of data which does not stick to the same convention at all.
For example, it’s quite common to find entries in a spreadsheet where an ampersand (‘&’) and the full word ‘and’ are used inconsistently, or two spreadsheets which use two different conventions. Others include:
- Percent vs %
- Decimal places to indicate thousands vs commas
- Dr vs Doctor vs no title at all
If we wanted to ‘clean’ some data to change the convention being used, we might use a formula like this:
=SUBSTITUTE(THE CONTENTS OF A2, SUBSTITUTE '&', WITH 'AND')
If the cell does not contain the ‘&’ sign, then it is not substituted.
If for some reason, we only wanted it to substitute the first ampersand, we could use that extra argument like so:
But otherwise, it will assume we want to substitute all instances of ‘&’.
Again, when copied down a column, it will repeat this process on each cell next to it: A2 becomes A3, then A4, and so on.
Here’s an example of that in action with some country names – note that it makes no difference to names without an ampersand, but does change ‘Antigua & Barbuda’:
Replacing Something with Nothing
Of course you can use SUBSTITUTE to replace characters with nothing at all. Say, for instance, that we had a list of names but didn’t want titles complicating things, we could write the following:
Both of these replace the two or three characters “Mr” or “Mrs” with “” – that is, nothing.
What if I want to substitute a quotation mark?
Because Excel uses quotation marks to indicate the beginning and end of a string of characters, it’s not easy to use quotation marks as just another character. For example, this formula, which tries to say ‘replace a quotation mark with nothing’ will generate an error: =SUBSTITUTE(A6,""","")
The solution is to use another function within Excel: CHAR. CHAR is used to convert codes used by computers into characters. These codes are called ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) and there are 255 numbers. For example, the letter ‘A’ is encoded as the number 65 by computers.
The ASCII code for quotation marks is 34. So instead of writing """, you can use CHAR(34). The formula in full using this would be=SUBSTITUTE(A6,CHAR(34),"")
Note that there are no quotation marks around CHAR(34) because this is not a string – it’s another formula. In fact, it’s what’s called a nested function, and we’ll deal with them in the next chapter.
Case Study: Generating URLs To Speed Up a Name Search
One investigation for the Mirror newspaper in the UK involved a spreadsheet containing hundreds of company names. In order to turn this into a story, we needed to identify the directors of each company, and then search to see if those individuals were connected with any newsworthy activity (for example, convicted criminals, political donors, tax evasion, subjects of frequent complaints, etc.)
The traditional method would see a person (or in this case, a team of journalism students) typing each company name into a website providing details on company directors, such as Duedil, or Companies House.
A repetitive process like this is a prime candidate for some computer assistance.
Rather than type in each name manually, then, we could use the =SUBSTITUTE function to help generate a URL for each company which would take the user directly to a page of search results.
Here’s what I mean:
A search for the company ‘Homezone Housing Ltd’ on Duedil generates the following URL:
A search for the company EBM Properties Ltd generates this URL:
Note that each URL is exactly the same apart for the name of the company at the end. In fact, we can express it like so:
"https://www.duedil.com/beta/search/companies?name=" followed by company name
If we have a series of cells containing company names the formula for adding each one to that URL would look like this:
…where the company name is in cell A2 the first time.
When copied down, A2 changes to A3, A4, and so on.
But there’s one other thing about those URLs: any spaces were replaced in the browser with %20 – that’s because you cannot have spaces in a web address.
To add this extra bit of formatting, we can use the =SUBSTITUTE function to replace every space with %20. This can be done in a separate column with a formula like so:
=SUBSTITUTE(A2," ", "%20")
In other words: grab A2, but substitute every space, with the characters %20.
If this formula was in B2, we would then rewrite our SUBSTITUTE formula to grab the results like so:
Of course you could skip that intermediate stage of substituting, and write a formula which combined both. That would look like this:
All that this does is replace B2 with the formula we wrote in B2: =SUBSTITUTE(A2," ","%20")– but omits the = sign because that is only needed once, at the start of the formula (and we’ve already done that)
Note that you need to check the URL that is being generated first. For example, if you were sure that the companies were named accurately, you could skip the search results URL and jump straight to the company page URL instead. That looks like this – note that it uses dashes instead of %20 but also that you need a company number in part of the URL too (which you would also need in your spreadsheet):
Google uses the + sign, so your SUBSTITUTE formula would look like this:
There’s also something else to consider: if your data has any extra spaces before or after the names, that will cause problems, so you may need to add the TRIM function, which gets rid of spaces at the start and end of cells. Again you could do this in a separate column like so:
…and then reference the cell with that formula in your next stage.
You could also combine both SUBSTITUTE and TRIM like so:
The principle is, again, the same: you’re just replacing the cell reference with the formula that cell contains.
You could even combine all three stages like so:
- TRIM will remove extra spaces before and after data in any cell. This is useful to ensure data is consistent and can be properly matched.
- Some ‘special’ spaces are not affected by TRIM, however, so if they’ve still not disappeared after using TRIM, copy the offending space and use the Edit > Replace… option to paste that space character into the ‘find’ box, leaving the ‘replace’ box empty (so it is replaced with nothing). Make sure you note how many of these are replaced in your data (it will tell you) and that it matches what you would expect.
- SUBSTITUTE will substitute a particular character (such as ‘&’) or string of characters (such as ‘and’) with whatever you specify (including no characters). This is similar to ‘find and replace’ but only affects the cell specified.
- SUBSTITUTE takes three arguments: the cell containing the text you want to clean up; what you want to substitute (in quotation marks); and what you want to substitute it with.
- If you only want to substitute the first, or the first two or three, instances of a particular character or string of characters, you can specify this in your formula as an extra argument after those.
- If no character/s is/are found, nothing is substituted.
- Because quotation marks are used to indicate a string, if you want to substitute a quotation mark itself you need to use another function: CHAR. This is a way of indicating a character by its ASCII code. The formula to indicate a quotation mark, for example, is =CHAR(34) so using this within a SUBSTITUTE formula would look something like this: =SUBSTITUTE(A6,CHAR(34),"")
- The TRIM and SUBSTITUTE functions only work on one cell at a time, so copy them down an entire column to create a new ‘trimmed’ or ‘cleaned’ version of another.
Paul Bradshaw runs the MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University, where he is an associate professor. He publishes the Online Journalism Blog, and is the founder of investigative journalism website HelpMeInvestigate.
At 9 a.m. Thursday, Vulture posted an interview with Noah Galvin, the star of ABC’s The Real O’Neals. Front and center were incendiary remarks about Bryan Singer, Colton Hayes and Eric Stonestreet.
As the day unfolded, portions of the 22-year-old actor’s remarks were picked up by Vanity Fair, Mic, Refinery29, People, The Huffington Post, TheWrap, International Business Times, The Advocate, Slate, Teen Vogue, Perez Hilton, Just Jared, Us Weekly and other outlets, sparking a flood of angry social media reaction.
By the end of the day, there was a heartfelt apology from Galvin, posted on social media and funneled to Vulture by 7:38 p.m.
Gawker’s Jordan Sargent is questioning why Vulture would be willing to scrub clean from the interview the remarks made by Galvin about Singer, but as several readers quickly commented, that decision likely connects to swift action by the filmmaker’s attorney Marty Singer and the perception that a client was defamed. Put another way: this particular strand of the mutant media apocalypse was defeated by the legal equivalent of Magneto.