Gawker's new commenting system caused a stir with their community when it was launched last month. This change is bigger than just cleaning up the discussions as it initially appeared, as Nick Denton, the Gawker Media CEO, revealed bigger plans to turn comments into revenue streams.
As described by Felix Salmon after seeing a demo of the new system:
So Gawker’s new commenting system is based around threads, with the default view being the main, most interesting thread... the person who starts a thread has quite a lot of control over which comments in that thread will get featured.
Essentially the workflow would be:
1) a marketer creates a sponsored post, aided by Gawkers staff to make the content as compelling as possible
2) visitors would read the post and presumably comment on the article
3) the marketer could then steer the comments and shape the overall conversation since they are the author of the post
Sponsored posts are not new, and revenue wise have worked well on sites like Techmeme and within Twitter streams. In a way, this can be an extension of the guest post concept, whereby companies create guest posts for prominent publications like TechCrunch, often sharing industry insights or startup war stories. Presumably no money changes hands, but the guest posters get free visibility in the bio and sometimes plugs of their companies in the article itself. It remains to be seen whether the model would translate as well to Gawker's paid posting model, since it's all about the content.
Secondarily, in his memo Denton also describes generating revenue through affiliate links, where readers click on links to ecommerce sites to buy products and Gawker gets a commission.
The second main growth area for Gawker Media is content-driven commerce, ranging from affiliate marketing to in-page transactions
This revenue stream is tried-and-true, so it's actually surprising that this isn't already in place long ago. Perhaps the recent focus on Pinterest's business model via affiliate links brought it back to the forefront.