First off, we would like to express our condolences to the talented team of staff behind Kotaku UK that are losing their jobs. In its six-year run since September 2014, it has its share of good and less-than-so articles. Regardless, they all led to fruitful discussions. We’re sad to see them go.
What is Kotaku UK? A Licensed Kotaku Brand
Kotaku UK is licensed under Future Publishing, which acquired the rights from G/O Media. G/O Media also manages several other websites such as Deadspin and The Onion. Since G/O Media’s acquisition of the Kotaku franchise late last year, there has only been drama and problems.
G/O Media’s CEO, Jim Spanfeller, has been the subject of great criticism after ever since taking over the position. There is a clear unalignment between the new leadership and the editorial staff when it comes to their delegated tasks. Websites like Kotaku and Deadspin have garnered a dedicated audience over their years, with their unbiased tackles on serious issues that would otherwise be padded by mainstream media.
The new leadership is constantly trying to change that established image to be more advertiser-friendly. Though G/O claims to be expanding their website’s reach to larger audiences, it’s not without a cost.
Deadspin, Left for Dead
Since acquiring them, G/O Media has been running intrusive, auto-playing audio-on video ads on their websites. This upset not only viewers of these sites, but also their respective editorial staff. Any form of protest to these decisions was silenced, further citing outrage.
G/O Media also meddled in Deadspin’s, one of its websites, output. G/O Media’s upper management allegedly told Deadspin to “stick to sports”, despite the site having a reputation of tackling more serious issues connected to the sports industry. Among the topics Deadspin covered was the Chinese influence on the N.B.A., racism in sports, drug problems among athletes, and more.
After refusing to “stick to sports”, long time editor Barry Petchesky was fired. Soon, the entirety of the Deadspin editorial team left the website untouched and left to die. It should go without saying that G/O Media is a problematic company to work with.
Future Publishing will not be Renewing its Licensing Rights
Kotaku US also faces the issue of intrusive ads. After facing criticism from viewers, Kotaku’s editorial staff took it to themselves to make an article criticizing their owner’s practices. That article is now non-existent. You can read it, or what’s left of it, here. Long time Kotaku journalist Jason Schreier, who famously exposed the dark side of the gaming industry, also left after disagreements with the new leadership.
Not just Jason Schreier, but many of the Kotaku staff (both US and UK) have found new places. Laura Kate Dale recently wrote an Avengers review for Polygon.
With the problematic leadership and the negative effects G/O Media has imposed on their sites, it’s not really a surprise that Future Publishing has refused their licensing renewal.
Kotaku UK may not shut down entirely, but its current lineup of staff are terminating their contract this September 9. Kotaku UK may continue in the future under a new lineup of staff later down the road. We wish well and good luck to all the affected individuals.