Rob Ford crack video or not, Gawker wins

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Do you want to watch a video of rotund Torontonian mayor Rob Ford smoking crack? Sure you do. Numbers don’t lie, and the important number here is $200,000, which is how much Gawker raised to buy the video from its cracky creators.

In less than two weeks, its Indiegogo fundraiser, dubbed the Crackstarter, has surpassed its goal, raising $201,254 from 8,388 funders. One of them was so desperate to see this tape that s/he plumped down a whopping $10,000 donation. (Let me see, who was Rob Ford’s strongest competitor for the mayor’s office?) 

Having fired his chief of staff last week, Ford is very much alone in the spotlight. Press secretary George Christopoulos and deputy of communications Isaac Ransom have also taken this opportunity to take their leave of the politico. 

The Toronto Star has raised allegations that someone may have been murdered for the video, and that Gawker is therefore negotiating not with crack-addled losers desperate for a big score but with hardened killers. Hardened killers, moreover, who have gone dark. Gawker editor John Cook has admitted that it has been more than a week since they were in touch with the holder of the video. 

But Gawker’s is not the only Crackstarter in town. Kerry Morrison and Chris Breikss have a rival fundraiser, stalled around $2,543; their mission statement specifies that if unsuccessful at buying the tape, all funds donated will go to the Addiction Centre at CAMH. Gawker recently announced, in an addendum to the Crackstarter, that should they be unsuccessful in obtaining the tape they will donate the money raised to an addiction treatment center, but some nonprofits have pre-emptively refused the money. Still, $200,000 is not easy to come by in the world of nonprofit addiction treatment, even if it feels like 30 pieces of silver.

But the biggest bonanza has already been reaped by Gawker: With more than 900,000 pageviews on its original story, 600,000 on one update, and 160,000 on another, the story has been a goldmine for Nick Denton’s media empire. Had they simply cut a check (or, as they say in Canada, “cheque”) for the video in the first place, views would have been substantially lower. Instead, they developed the biggest story of the year into an ongoing saga, and except for editor-in-chief John Cook’s initial travel costs, it was all free. That really is getting away with murder.

Photo via West Annex News/Flickr

Lorraine Murphy

Lorraine Murphy

Lorraine Murphy is an Ottawa-based cybersecurity journalist and founding editor of the Cryptosphere. She has a keen interest in WikiLeaks and web culture, and her bylines have appeared in Salon, Vanity Fair, Serious Eats, and elsewhere.