Outgoing Gizmodo CEO Narisetti credits staff for success
Gizmodo Media Group CEO Raju Narisetti sent out the following email out Monday to his staff:
I had recently asked to step down as CEO of Gizmodo Media Group and with Univision’s reluctant blessing, will be officially leaving later this month.
With recent changes consolidating all business unit reporting lines of Fusion Media Group into Univision, my decision makes structural sense for GMG. Editorial Director Susie Banikarim will now have direct oversight of all GMG newsroom staff and related journalism-budgets, and work with Sameer Deen, recently named as the new head of Univision Digital, to manage GMG, The Onion and Univision.com. I have gotten to know Sameer in my time at Univision, and his previous experience in new media from NBC and Scripps Networks sets him up well to understand what uniquely contemporary digital newsrooms, such as GMG, need in order to be successful in the long-term. As Sameer has underscored, Univision is now taking a close look at its entire portfolio and I am really glad Susie has recently begun working directly on all GMG newsroom matters with him, as well as other Univision Digital business colleagues, and outside consultants.
I said in my very first all-hands that I think leading and managing this special group of journalists is a privilege and something I will never take for granted. I want to thank all of you for allowing me the opportunity to be a part of what is an incredible–and ongoing–journalistic journey at GMG.
Along the way, there have been well chronicled integration challenges, around some new systems and processes, and key support services. And, sometimes, these have been quite the distraction from what most of us are here to do, every day. At the same time, being part of Fusion Media Group at Univision also gave us new resources and, therefore, a greater ability to pursue exactly the kind of journalism that all of you are inherently so very good at, every day. Much of the credit for this goes to Isaac Lee and Felipe Holguin, and key members of our extended Univision family, all the way to the Board, including its Chairman Haim Saban. I am quite appreciative of Univision management’s hands-off support throughout my time here.
I spent the past 19 months focused obsessively on making sure GMG journalism is adequately staffed, with the right, diverse talent and, more critically, well-resourced, so you can all execute your most ambitious work. I hope most of you feel that all of our newsrooms are healthier today, than when we started this journey together. And, along the way, you have had the freedom–and the resources–to always pursue the kind of journalism you came here to do. I came in as a big believer in Church and State practices, and I leave knowing that approach has worked well at GMG, for both our readers and advertisers, every single day.
I am so very proud of what you have all collectively accomplished with these newsroom resources, for our still-growing audiences. All of you who believed and have stayed through the acquisition-related changes and the transition, and the many talented colleagues who have joined GMG in the past two years, continue to confound the numerous critics, doubters and skeptics out there, with very measurable outcomes. And it shows.
Across the FMG network of sites, we now reach at least 116 million unique visitors every month, as measured by ComScore. Amid everything else, we added two new sites and four new sub-sites to the family, migrated six sites on to our continuously improving Kinja platform, while proving our journalism can transcend platforms, with the successful Season 1 of Jalopnik’s Car vs America, and creation of a slew of engaging podcasts.
In 2017 alone, within our digital portfolio, we saw six billion page-views and 2.5 billion video-views. Just within GMG sites, Gizmodo, Jalopnik, The Root, Lifehacker, and Gizmodo Español, hit all-time audience records. I am particularly thrilled with the powerful resurgence of The Root, which has tripled its monthly audience since it became part of the GMG family.
Others out there may claim bigger numbers or a more meteoric rise in audiences in 2017, but we achieved what we did the hard way, with 99% of our total page-views still coming from organic reach and not via paid efforts, thanks to that rare and unique combination of longevity+relevance.
Along the way, you really mixed it up. At Splinter, we published the most one-word stories: 9 (Clearly, quite unlike the length of this goodbye note!) Lifehacker published 897 how-to posts in 2017, and just our DC Comics/Marvel stories alone generated 72 million page-views. We began with zero podcasts and ended 2017 with 6.1 million downloads of 258 episodes. And, you are now in the enviable position of having a sizeable video team, with a 100% sell-through on the video we currently create, and still not enough homegrown video to meet the growing appetite—from readers and advertisers alike.
During this time, we didn’t pivot, and we didn’t mortgage our unique and enviable business model, with its multiple revenue streams, especially e-commerce, to third-party social media platforms. And when many newsrooms are abandoning reader-comments as a burden, we got 11 million comments in 2017 alone, reinforcing GMG as home to engaging conversations, and not just one-way storytelling. The upshot of all of your efforts: we had +3 minutes of engaged time per user, on a monthly basis, across 88,000 published posts in 2017, an engagement level with young US audiences that our peers are still hard-pressed to match. This is credit to your journalism as well as to our Kinja platform, which has the great potential to offer us, and hopefully other media companies, a continued, much-needed moat against these troubling third-party platforms.
I am particularly proud of the ongoing transformation of our GMG newsroom staff, in terms of gender and on other diversity yardsticks. At the beginning of 2016, nearly 80% of our team was white and 62% male. Today, most of our peers, including most deeper-pocketed newsrooms, don’t come close to where we already are, in our paid interns, full-time hiring and overall retention, as well as the diversity in our leadership ranks. This deliberate diversity is a key reason why GMG’s #MeToo experience in past year has only been in writing about it at most of our peers. There will always be some ways to go on the diversity front, so please continue to transparent about staff and hiring practices at GMG, because we need to lead and not follow or fall behind, for the sake of our industry.
Now, at the risk for forgetting many others, I want to single out some people.
Lynn Oberlander, my very first hire at GMG, is a key reason our contemporary, daily acts of journalism haven’t faced new existential threats. I have benefited a lot from her always-wise and opinionated counsel on many matters, well beyond lawsuits. Always listen to her.
Alex Dickinson, Ryan Brown, Jim Cooke, Adam Neuman, Ernie Deeb, Kavi Reddy, Andrew Harding, Emmy de la Cruz, Panama Jackson, Kashmir Hill, Alaa Basatneh, Stephen Totillo, Victor Jeffreys, Jennie Meltzer, Emma Baccellieri, Camila Jimenez Villa, Etele Illés, Ryan Mandelbaum, Mark Kortekaas, Maritza DeLeon, Melissa Kirsch, Patrick George, Shehroz Ali, Ally Tubis, Will Sansom, Danielle Belton, Sarah Dedewo, Ana Garcia, Damon Young, Megan Greenwell, Jane Hegeler, David McKenna, Kelly Bourdet, Gregory Jette, Rachel Gross, Don Steele, Michael Harriot, Anna Merlan, Lisette Simon, Carolina Rodriguez, Borja Echevarria, Christina Blacken, Patricia Hernandez, Julia Saenz, Eyal Ebel, Joanna Rothkopf, Jose Zamora, Carmelo Perez, Katie McDonough, Taryn Weiss, Michele Chiang, Jessica Herrera-Flanigan, Prachi Gupta, Kate Conger, Jim Boos, Diana Moskovitz, Hamilton Nolan, Matthew Shire, Nadya Ramson, Nona Willis Aronowitz, Michelle Woo, Brooke Minters, Tim Marchman, Ryan Felton, Jay Grant, Rosemary Mercedes, Joyce Tang, Monique Judge, Keith Summa, Koa Beck, Pepo Ferradas, Boris Gartner, Ecleen Caraballo, Nick Humphries, Kirsten West Savali, Beth Skwarecki, Molly Osberg, Margaret Lazo and Jonathan Schwartz, all gave me many different reasons why my time at GMG/FMG and Univision will be memorable.
I used to tell myself that I simultaneously raise the average age and drop the average IQ, every time I walked into a meeting at GMG. And it pleased me no end, that I got to work with so many smart and deeply committed colleagues, such as all of you. While I will not miss my freezing office—and perhaps you will get back a much-needed, extra conference room back–I will miss that smart learning curve I experienced here, the most.
I don’t yet have a next adventure lined up, a welcome, new experience for me in three, non-stop decades in journalism and the business of journalism. But, no matter where I might eventually end up, I will be a fan of GMG’s storytelling, via Twitter and in real life, as well as a well-wisher.
“A leader is best
When people barely know that he exists,
Not so good when people obey and
Worst when they despise him.
“Fail to honor people
They fail to honor you;”
But of a good leader, who talks little,
When his work is done,
his aim fulfilled,
They will all say,
“We did this ourselves.”’
–Lao-tzu 600 B.C. (est)
The work at GMG is far from ever done or our aims yet fulfilled. But you did do this, by yourselves, collectively. Hold on to that resilience.
If you can, amid all the relentless change that is now the new normal for our business, remain focused on our growing audiences, and keep creating meaningful differences than better sameness, with all your journalism, every day.
And, try to remember that it is a lot harder to be kind than clever.