It hasn’t been Gawker Media’s stories of late that have bitten it in the backside, but rather like Al Capone going down for tax evasion, it is a redesign ordered by Gawker chief Nick Denton in February that has caused site traffic to plummet further than even the site’s critics expected.
The February redesign, which switched all of Gawker Media sites -- Gawker, Jezebel, Gizmodo, Deadspin and io9 -- from a standard blog format to a magazine format, has caused traffic to plummet, according to multiple reports.
The redesign was supposed to give the sites a more magazine look so that they would play better on the iPad and tablets.
In February, Denton stood by his changes and argued that the readers would come back. They haven’t, and according to a recent report by The Atlantic magazine’s website, more and more readers keep leaving.
Unique new visitors to the sites’ homepages dropped from 8.8 million in January to 2.2 million in February and further to just over 745,000 in March, according to Gawker’s internal statistics, The Atlantic reported.
Denton responded to The Atlantic on Thursday by arguing that the decline wasn’t as bad as they were making it out to be.
He claimed the internal tracker was inaccurate and that according to Quantcast the site is doing 100 million page views a week.
Denton also took to Twitter to defend his empire and posted a graph of page view traffic with a few dips and valleys, but a much more even keel than the scary drop-off The Atlantic included in its graph.
Denton also tweeted: “In case of confusion: after a drop of about 25%, Gawker Media page views now more than halfway back."
Still, page views are not as valuable as unique visitors (which is what advertisers care about) and according to the internal data, those are down by some astonishing numbers.
Denton also argued that most of the drop in visitors was from a decrease in search traffic, not organic traffic. The site’s redesign can be blamed for some of the loss in search traffic since it makes it more difficult for engines to crawl over its content so that it appears in searches.
The backlash over the switch apparently was so bad that Gawker installed a button on the top of its homescreen that allows readers to banish the new layout in favor of the old, more trafficked standby.