Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race To Go Viral

Books on Tape. May 2023. 10:16 hrs. ISBN 9780593671054. $95. SOC SCI
Tech journalist Smith’s debut charts the rise of new media through two of its major players—Nick Denton, founder of Gawker Media, and Jonah Peretti, cofounder of the Huffington Post and founder of BuzzFeed. Founded as a progressive alternative to popular conservative websites, the Huffington Post started as a combination news site and group blog, but thanks to Peretti’s savvy use of search-engine optimization, briefly became an online behemoth, although it was soon eclipsed by BuzzFeed, Peretti’s side project. Gawker, the flagship blog of Denton’s empire, aimed to keep readers refreshing their screens as a means of staying in the know. Denton and his editors didn’t shy away from controversy, and this led to a feud with billionaire Peter Thiel that brought Gawker Media to its knees. Smith focuses on the personalities associated with the era, showing how their forward-thinking was both a boon and a detriment. Smith provides an engaging, approachable narration of the introduction and conclusion, but Ian Putnam serves as the primary narrator. Putnam has an evenly paced, matter-of-fact style that fits well with Smith’s reporting, handling even the most outlandish tales of excess and self-absorption in a straightforward manner.
VERDICT Ideal for internet-culture aficionados as well as listeners interested in insider peeks at dot-com businesses of the recent past.
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