A popular music website which millions of people love/hate/complain-about-and-secretly read-anyway is selling out big time to Condé Nast, a lumbering behemoth of old media that’s desperately trying to make its comeback in digital.
The New York Times reports the sale of the venerable tastemaker for an unspecified amount. Pitchfork was founded in 1996, and helped define a new vanguard of voicey music publications on the internet. Besides the website, Pitchfork also operates an events business and some other offshoots, like its dead-tree quarterly journal, The Pitchfork Review.
In a statement on the deal Ryan Schreiber, Pitchfork’s founder told the Times: “[CondéNast’s] belief in what we do, combined with their additional expertise and resources, will allow us to extend our coverage of the artists and stories that shape the music landscape on every platform.” Ok sure!
In an email to employees, Condé Nast CEO Bob Sauerberg wrote that the deal “reinforces our commitment to building Condé Nast’s premium digital network, focusing on distinctive editorial voices and engaging high-value millennial audiences”. Which is the meaningless and obvious marketing gobbledygook you would expect.
— Joe Pompeo (@joepompeo) October 13, 2015
Fred Santarpia, the Pitchfork’s chief digital officer, told the Times that Pitchfork was profitable, but the company hasn’t been without its setbacks. The Dissolve, a film website funded by Pitchfork, ceased publication earlier this year citing financial troubles.
So who cares? Why is my Twitter feed aflutter with “whoas?” It’s not immediately obvious that any shake-ups are imminent. But if you if you’ve read this far, you’re probably in that “core demographic” that Pitchfork has been successfully writing to for 20 years. Pitchfork means something?
The website is a symbol – though of what, exactly, is up for debate. Is it a bastion of intellectual and independent criticism? Or just a bunch of overeducated pretension? Regardless, Pitchfork is hugely influential. And even if you don’t read it — and even if you hate it — the site’s reviews and coverage are defining a huge segment of the music conversation that’s happening between self-styled smartypants people with excess cash to spend.
Regardless of your feelings, you’d probably never associated Pitchfork with a mammoth media conglomerate before today. Now after all these years of building itself up as the alternative to the establishment, Pitchfork is officially a corporate sellout poseur website. Let’s hope the Nasties don’t run the thing into the ground.