Imagining A New ‘Video Gawker’ #startup

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

When I was in Seoul, there was this nebulous little group of creative-types who were doing Broad City-like videos with their phones 15 years ahead of their time. It just occurred to me that it would be cool if you did something like that today. Or, put another way, I think there’s both an audience and a marketplace for something of a micro-video version of Gawker.

If I lived in New York City (which I don’t) and if I had money (which I don’t) I would found a Website devoted to combining the best of The Daily Show and Broad City. Instead of fictional little adventures around New York City, I would find really funny young people to do field pieces about “real” street news.

These field pieces would be no more than two or three minutes long and would have a blog post associated with them that would flesh out the story for nerds who would actually like to, like, read and stuff. The trick is, of course, to find really funny young people who are so young that they aren’t already going the YouTube star route out of UCB.

Anyway, absolutely no one listens to me and I’m just letting off steam while I charge my batteries to get back to writing my novel.

Here’s the video where I gradually came up with this idea.

Snark, Trump Era Zeitgeist & The Resistance’s Need For An Anti-Axios

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Sometimes, the absence of something can oddly be just as noticeable as the presence of something. It wasn’t too long ago — less than 10 years ago — when the nattering nabobs of the New York media world were aflutter over snark, smarm and the the difference between the two.

At the center of this debate was the late, sometimes-not-so-great Gawker Media. It is interesting that Gawker was at its best in the 2003-2004 era when it was new, just starting and was commenting on the early George W. Bush era. It was the age of the Second Iraq War and for people like me, Gawker.com really tapped into the zeitgeist.

It did, at least, for people like me.

In those early years of Gawker as we settled into the long war of Iraq, the site was a place to go and get a good chuckle over the foolishness of it all. In 2004 Wonkette was still under the Gawker Media umbrella at it, too, was really cool. It was really snarky and fun and was talking about stupid shit that the Bush Administration was up to.

But gradually, things changed. Some of it had to do with the loss of focus on the part of Gawker Media founder Nick Denton and some of it had to do with, well, Obama being president. It was difficult to be snarky and mean about how stupid The Powers That Be were when, like, we had a Cool Dad as president. The battle over snark versus smarm was joined and the issue became so muddled that eventually the lights got turned on, the beer drained and the party was definitely over.

Flash forward to now and it seems as though we’ve entered the post-snark era. This is really, really odd because there’s so much to be snarky about. If ever there was something to be unabashedly snarky about, Trumplandia is definitely it. The absence of any real snark as practiced by Gawker.com and before that Spy Magazine and Late Night With David Letterman is a quite a head scratcher.

Some of it, probably has to do with demographics. The people who most likely be the generators of snark — young people — are probably just a little bit too young to reach that 20-25 age era of their life when they want to crack wise at everything. Or not. I don’t know. It is interesting that the closest thing to any kind of protest or snark in pop culture is the pretty bland “woke” pop music you hear every now and again. Pop culture in general really hasn’t changed much since Trump’s victory. There are a few pings here and there of Hollywood getting its act together and helping people process Trump’s ascendance, but not nearly as much as you might think. Some of it is that it takes time to develop scripted material, I know, but still. You’d think they’d fast track that shit or something. Times are kind of desperate.

But there’s no site right now that is tapping into the anger that a lot of people are still feeling from the events of November 2016. What’s weird is, we have Axios. Axios relies upon “access journalism” for its scoops on the Trump Administration and it plays it right down the middle. No snark, no quips, no figurative raised eye brows, no anything. Just plain, boring facts about the insane clown shit-show that is the Trumplandia era. I guess what I’m suggesting is that The Resistance needs it’s own version of Axios. An anti-Axios. Something that does for The Resistance what Axios does for Trumplandia. It would be irreverent, snarky and cool like Spy Magazine was 30 years go.

You’d think that someone, somewhere would see what I see — that there is both an audience and a market for a snarky site like the old Gawker or Wonkette. Something for people like me to read and have the occasional cathartic laugh through. The closest thing we have right now is the podcast company Crooked Media. The only problem with Crooked Media is it always leave me wanting more. I listen to Pod Save America or Pod Save The World and I get so stirred up, so angry that I want to read articles about what they’ve been talking about. But, to date at least, they haven’t started to generate that kind of content. That would be the obvious thing for them to do to take their site to the next level, I must note.

This brings up the interesting idea of what my would be neo-Gawker would be like. In my imagination, it would be a lot like the Gawker.com of 2003-2004, but with a lot more video. Like, I would like most blog posts to have a 2 minute clip from the writer of the post explaining what they have written. I would also like regular video podcasts. Though Trumplandia has caused me to become addicted to podcasts, I think video podcasts are the future. I used to do one on the now defunct Blab platform and it was a lot of fun. If you’re all that interested in what I did, you can samples of my “show” on my YouTube channel.

I have suggested on more than on occasion that of all the existing media companies out there, that Playboy has the biggest vested interest in re-tooling itself as something of a neo-Gawker. I’m sure it’s a lot more difficult for them to do this than I think, but they have the means, motive and opportunity to do as I suggest. They are a legacy brand with a history of progressive leanings and they’re desperate to be relevant again. It would make a lot of sense for them to poach lot of Jezebel.com writers and completely retool Playboy.com to become the site that people like visit to process what is going on with Trumplandia.

Another thing I might suggest is having someone, say, Ilana Glazer, be a roving reporter for the site. I really liked what Gawker did with Julia Allison way back when and it would be fun to recreate that silly experience of having a young, attractive woman running around the streets of New York City having zany hi-jinks. I just think that’s really cool. I really like the concept.

Regardless, maybe the media world has changed to such an extent that what I want simply isn’t possible. It could be that the amount of money needed to start a major blog is now such that the whole endeavor is cost prohibitive. That makes me sad. It would be so much fun to have one site that was the go-to site for The Resistance. Something that really tapped into this anger that many of us are feeling.

I would start such a media company myself — The Trumplandia Report is kind of my vision of what it would look like — but, alas, I don’t have any money and generally no one listens to me. But I need somewhere to vent, so I write here whenever the mood strikes me. I hope that doing my little part for The Resistance helps in some way.

Shelton Bumgarner is the editor and publisher of The Trumplandia Report. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail.com.

Trumplandia As The Ultimate Expression Of The Post-Gawker Era

By Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

Now, let me get some things out of the way. By the time Gawker.com closed its doors on August 22, 2016 because of the vengeful machinations of billionaire Peter Thiel, it wasn’t very good. In fact, I kind of hated it. I hated it because it committed that worst of media sins: being boring.

I could never quite tell the origin of this existential malaise. What it because its founder, Nick Denton, was married and wealthy now and did not want the trouble or was what? There just didn’t seem to be much vision as to what, exactly, Gawker was. And, it had gone from being snarky to just being nasty for no reason than it could be. It just wasn’t cool anymore.

Having said all that, all I can say is we sorely need Gawker now in this era of Trumplandia. We need a snarky Website that tears down the bizarre characters that Trumplandia seems to generate on a nearly daily basis.
The Gawker of, say, 2004 or 2005 would have really dug in deep into the glaring foibles of Eric Trump, for instance. I know I would have loved to have read some of the better writers of Gawker’s Gold Age mull what the significance of Trumplandia was. And given that it was felled by a member of Trumplandia itself is also interesting.

The fact that Trumplandia came into being just about the time Gawker folded is telling. We lost Gawker and now we have Axios, which is generally regarded by the media industry as the Trump Administration’s lap dog. They trade their self-worth for “access journalism” is the conventional wisdom as best I can ascertain.

The old Gawker, the Gawker of its prime when it was more snarky than nasty, would have had a filed day attacking the Trump Administration. It’s weird how not only did we lose Gawker right before Trumplandia, but we lost Jon Stewart’s version of the Daily Show as well. Maybe Bernie would have won the Democratic Primaries had there been Jon Stewart to egg on progressives.

Regardless, I really miss Gawker now as virtually ever day seems to bring with it new, insane revelations from Trumplandia. Gawker was well known for its investigative journalism, so maybe they would have managed to dig up the “pee tape” that everyone wants to see.

Instead of Gawker, now we have Fusion. Which I never read, but seems the bi-lingual corpse of Gawker in some respects, with many of Gawker’s old writers working there. It is telling that right now there is no go-to Website for Trumplandia coverage. Also there are any number of podcasts which are really interesting that cover Trumplandia, but that’s about it. Though there’s New York Magazine and The New Yorker, but really these days it seems TV — and Twitter itself — is where all the interesting Trumplandia coverage is to be had. I suspect if Nick Denton was actually engaged in the Gawker product, that maybe the hypothetical modern Gawker would really be an interesting read again.

There certainly is enough to write about when it comes to Trumplandia, no one wish the resources of Gawker exists right now that I find all that interesting. I wish someone would fill that void. I am doing my little part, but no one is reading this blog and generally no one cares what I have to say. But I find writing relaxing and I am writing this for no one but myself right now.

Having said all that, Gawker, I miss you. I really do. We need you right now.