Content Marketing

Transparency Trending: Lifehacker Opens Up Their Edit Process to All

Would you let your readers into your newsroom? One blog is ready to do just that.

Lifehacker, one of Gawker Media’s newest and most popular sites, is giving readers a look into the blog’s editorial brainstorming sessions and debates on a new sub-blog called Shop Talk. Editor-in-Chief Whitson Gordon pitched it as a move towards transparency. “You should be able to see why we make the decisions we do, and how these articles come to be,” he wrote.

(Full disclosure: Studio@Gawker, Gawker Media’s branded content arm, is a Contently client.)

Editors will post important discussions that they think are worth readers’ time. In Shop Talk’s debut, for example, Gordon asked readers if Lifehacker needs to rethink how it covers major tech events (like Apple’s) going forward, and proceeded to respond to a majority of the comments.

To some—especially cautious brand publishers new to the game—this might sound a bit insane. So why is Gawker doing this?

Collaboration and transparency are central to Gawker Media, and part of its larger initiative with Kinja, a publishing and commenting platform. Founder Nick Denton believes that Kinja will usher in a future where publishing is a democratic and interactive endeavor between writers, editors, and readers. Denton believes readers can—and will—wield more influence as publishing evolves, with stronger relationships with publishers as the end result.

“The dream of the early blogs was that through conversation we could tell the truth, and if we could discover the truth, we could then have conversations around that truth,” Denton told The New York Times of the motivation behind the platform.

The key word is conversation, and in that regard, Kinja is reminiscent of a social media tool: Users can manage commenting threads linked to unique URLs, and authors are responsible for managing their posts’ comments. Denton’s philosophy is that everyone should have a chance to contribute, and as a result, commenting is completely anonymous, and admins cannot ban a particular IP address. The upside is that users have more control; the downside is that malicious trolls wreak havoc on the platform. That became an issue this summer, as trolls leveraged Kinja’s baked-in anonymity to post an unending wave of graphic rape GIFs to women’s interest blog Jezebel. In the controversy that followed, Gawker staff acknowledged in various comments that Kinja remains a work in progress, and Jezebel continued to report on how the issue was being resolved.

Throughout the ordeal, Gawker maintained its devotion to transparency, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. In addition to Shop Talk, another public Kinja sub-blog, Disputations, serves as Gawker’s internal message board. There are no rules, and that translates to a flood of GIFs, posts to interviews of Daniel Radcliffe opining on space travel, and even writers venting about Kinja’s quirks.

Transparent publishing trending

Gawker Media isn’t alone in embracing transparency publishing. Buffer, the nifty social media management tool, has a blog dedicated to company transparency, Open, which reports on topics like the company’s fundraising efforts and the formula that they use to calculate salaries.

Similarly, Refinery29 hopped the bandwagon with a blog spilling all of its marketing secrets. It sounds foolish, like they’re willingly offering stepping stones to the competition. Yet it seems to be working for them so far.

Founder Leo Waldrich explained the motivation behind Buffer’s blog to marketer John Doherty: “That was the realization for me. It was like, ‘Well, if all this power of marketing something lies with the writer, then maybe I need to become a writer myself.’”

In a blog post, Buffer co-founder and CEO Joel Gascoigne wrote that the motivation for Buffer’s radical transparency wasn’t external, but the internal impact it would have on his team.

“One key reason transparency is a such a powerful value for a company’s culture is trust,” Gasciogne wrote. “Transparency breeds trust, and trust is the foundation of great teamwork.”

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