When Nikki Finke Leaves Deadline … Whose Brand Is Stronger? A Quick Study

When Nikki Finke Leaves Deadline … Whose Brand Is Stronger? A Quick Study

A study of media consumption suggests Deadline will have a tough time without her

What happens when a news blog loses its signature writer?

That has happened to Deadline with the departure of Nikki Finke, and an independent analysis of the digital footprint of her brand versus Deadline's suggests that the site she founded and has now left is going to face an uphill struggle.

kontera nikki finkeKontera, based in San Francisco, measures brand impact by looking at the number of a brand's impressions across the Internet and social media. They claim to look at 1 billion tweets, and to be tagged on 15,000 participating sites, correlated to another 600,000 sites they monitor. (Translation: it's a bunch of engineers mining data across the Web.)

Also read: Why Nikki Finke + Variety = A Business Dilemma for Jay Penske

Somebody had the idea of looking at Nikki Finke vs. Deadline and seeing which interests readers more. They found that between October 9 and November 7, Nikki had 44% of consumption, and Deadline had 56%. That's an extremely high ratio of people interested in her, as opposed to the publication.

By comparison, here's a look during the same period at Grantland vs founder Bill Simmons:

  • Grantland = 61%
  • Bill Simmons = 39%

Nikki Finke is not alone in this category. Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg are exiting AllThingsD at the end of the year, and Kontera kontera bill simmonshas also looked at how meaningful they are to that brand.

No surprise: VERY meaningful.

More people are seeking out Kara Swisher than Walt Mossberg. More people are seeking both of these than Ed Baig, another leading tech writer.

Also read: Kara Swisher, Walt Mossberg Made Millions for AllThingsD — And All They Got Were Those Lousy Red Chairs

In the Oct-November time period, AllThingsD had 68% media consumption while Walt Mossberg had 32% share of voice across the Internet.

A study that Kontera did this summer found when it comes to consumer electronics, Mossberg can dwarf even a gargantuan publication like the Wall Street Journal.


That in a nutshell describes the dilemma of digital news sites that base their brand, and hence their readership, on flagship writers who they may not be able to or want to retain.

Also read: TOLDJA! Nikki Finke Leaves Deadline

In the case of Deadline, the findings mean that even though she wrote very little in October and November (though she did give a ton of interviews) “she is intrinsically tied to the identity of the site, further corroborating that the site will need to forge a new brand identity and do so without their most popular reporter,” said a spokesman for Kontera.

Put in other terms, with Finke leaving — “there will be an immediate hit,” said Ammiel Kammon, Kontera's head of product and marketing. “We are absolutely in an age where the personality has more of a direct relationship with the audience that is outside the strict control of the publication they're affiliated with, than before.”

As for AllThingsD, Dow Jones cutting ties with Mossberg and Swisher, will put that site behind the eight-ball.

“What it basically says is in consumer electronics he [Walt] will not be easy to replace,” Kammon said. “They're going to need to bring on talent who can bring the hits, that's what was driving AllThingsD.”

“They're going to need to bring a team that can get the inside scoop that can break large hits. You can see how closely Walt is correlated to Apple. They've loved him for years, he gets the early scoop for years and years. They're going to need to bring talent that can do that.”

The same is less true for David Pogue, who recently left The New York Times for Yahoo.

kontera finke flemingSo what of Deadline under its new leader Mike Fleming? Meanwhile, Finke dwarfs Fleming in interest across the web (see chart).

Kontera also found that the interest in Mike Fleming was quite a lot smaller in that same period than the site itself:

  • Deadline = 71%
  • Mike Fleming = 29%

And worse yet, “probably about 50% of the consumption around Mike Fleming was speculation around the relationship between the two of them.”

Which doesn't even account for what happens when Finke, in a presumed new gig, starts taking aim at the site she created and once ran.

  • Funny

    Funny that Sharon would actually write something nice about Finke.

    Also funny that if Kontera were to do the same study on The Wrap and Waxman, I bet she would be like 10% or under….

    Come on Sharon, I know you're playing nice cause you want Nikki to take over the Wrap…

    • http://www.thewrap.com TheWrap

      that's entirely the point, funny man. the dilemma is for sites based substantially on the following, or personality, of a single writer. that's not the case for this site, and quite consciously so. people come to thewrap to read an array of interesting voices. sw

  • hupto

    The only people who care about Nikki are the bottom-feeder, TMZ-type trolls who dig her scorched-earth mentality. The site is much better without her. And oh, yes: If nobody talks to her, she'll have nothing to “report.” Keep that in mind, folks.

  • queenmydishes

    Not surprising that Nikki consumption in the last month was high — there was a lot of seculation around the relationship with deadline and a lot of coverage of her meltdown/ ‘leave of absence'/ feuds with Penske. if we stop covering her will she just be engulfed by her new trollden/site?

  • Richard Pachter

    But I'll follow Mike Fleming and Lisa de Moraes, who are excellent, as is Finke.

  • Realist

    This is skewed because Drudge linked to Deadline for boxoffice stories, mostly, which Nikki wrote—so her name is likely turning up in re-tweets of those Drudge posts. Drudge linking to Deadline was a huge boost. Otherwise I believe the Hollywood community will continue to read Deadline regularly as Mike and team are great journalists and offer fantastic editorial (see the post on Jack from happy madison today). Folks in Hollywood are used to putting up with maniacal jerks when it suits them. Now that Nikki has left…I have a feeling she will be the one struggling. She was at the right place at the right time—right when bloggers and the internet were blowing up in popularity. Starting over now with all of the options out there is THE uphill battle.

  • http://www.warrenjasonstreet.com/ WJS

    Nikki Finke has a huge following. That's what they paid for when they bought the site and that's what they're losing now that she's leaving. What should have been a no-brainer becomes a lesson in business 101 – when you stop giving people what they came for in the first place, you shouldn't be surprised when they stop coming back.

  • Leave Comments

    As soon as her site is open. I will go there instead. Deadline got too corporate once she sold. It lost its fun edge. It always had news but was fun to read. Now it is so much business news in the industry. I never went there for that. Even her business stories had her sarcastic voice and a little insider info thrown in,.I love her snark and find her very entertaining to read. Looking forward to reading you again Nikki.
    Also I am not a TMZ or gossip site reader so if you want to say that is the type she attracted you are wrong.

  • Ernest

    They just hired that witch, nut, Jesus-freak (she lived in a convent) Anita Busch as film editor at Deadline! What a joke, she's been fired from every place she ever worked and now Deadline is editing out all the negative comments about her that should have been about 100 times the positive ones! She is crazy and evil and that sight is going down so fast that Penske will never know what hit him.