Owen Thomas, who has run the Silicon Valley gossip rag Valleywag for the past couple years, is leaving Gawker, the site’s parent company, we’ve learned. This move is a bad blow for the site which significantly cut its workforce a few months ago as it was rolled under the larger Gawker .com umbrella, and made into a column.
Thomas, who was previously an editor with Business 2.0, was brought in to run Valleywag in June 2007, replacing the head of Gawker Media, Nick Denton. Denton’s run as the editor of Valleywag came only after he fired Nick Douglas from the same job.
We hear Thomas is going to work for NBC on some kind of site which may or may not be centered around the Valley as well. [Update below, Denton has confirmed Owen’s NBC gig.]
We’ve just contacted Thomas who declined to comment at this time.
Update: Gabriel Synder, the editor of Gawker, has confirmed the news and had this to say:
While I’m sorry to see Owen leave, I’m still committed to keeping Valleywag going as Gawker’s tech column.
Snyder continued that while he couldn’t say who will be brought in to replace Thomas, there will be a new editor of Valleywag and the site will definitely not be shuttered.
“Owen’s been great through this entire transition and has set the template for how coverage of the tech beat can fit into Gawker,” Snyder went on to say.
Update 2: Here’s Gawker founder Nick Denton on the move:
Owen has a reputation as a fearsome gossip writer. What’s less known is his penchant for management. It sounds like this NBC job will give him the responsibility he’s been craving — and take him out of the Valleywag firing line! We’re replacing him internally. More on that later.
NBC may be building out a bunch of local sites, Denton says, which Thomas would be a part of.
Denton went on to say that Gawker’s Q1 revenue numbers have been strong, up 27% from the year ago period. Of Valleywag specifically, he would only say that it’s sold under Gawker.com, so it’s not separated out for things like ad sales anymore, apparently. Gawker is down from 15 to 9 sites now after it shed a bunch last year, but he says the majority of the revenue came from those 9 sites anyway. He adds that they’ve been growing, even during the downturn.
Update 3: Gawker has just confirmed that the new editor of Valleywag will be Ryan Tate (pictured, right). Tate had been serving as Gawker’s night editor, as well as contributing some of his work to Valleywag. Gawker is now seeking a night editor to replace him.
Update 4: Beet.TV’s Andy Plesser has the story on Thomas’ new gig. Apparently, he’ll be the managing editor of NBC Bay Area, a news site focused just on the Bay Area that is in beta right now. As Plesser notes, this will make Thomas an employee of GE (which owns NBC).
[Owen Thomas photograph by Benjamin Tice Smith]