Babe.net, the site behind a story about comedian Aziz Ansari that set off a debate about consent and journalistic ethics, is for sale, according to an email from CEO Jack Rivlin obtained by TheWrap.
A fact sheet to potential buyers said Babe.net’s parent company, Tab Media, was “seeking a new owner who can take advantage of its large distribution, strong brand and reputation.”
Rivlin and a rep for Ansari did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap. Though the fact sheet said Babe.net’s owners closed it in December, it has has continued to publish some new content this year.
Babe.net targets a female audience aged 15-30 with the slogan, “For girls who don’t give a f—.”
Once a little-known blog, it drew widespread attention for a January 2018 piece entitled, “I Went on a Date With Aziz Ansari. It Turned Into the Worst Night of My Life.”
While some counted it as a #MeToo narrative that exposed the comedian pressuring a woman to have sex and failing to read signals, some readers — including New York Times staff editor Bari Weiss — said the encounter described in the story did not rise to the level of sexual misconduct and was simply “bad sex.”
Ansari responded to the woman in the story that he would take “her words to heart.”
“It was true that everything did seem okay to me, so when I heard that it was not the case for her, I was surprised and concerned. I took her words to heart and responded privately after taking the time to process what she had said,” the comedian said after the story was published. “I continue to support the movement that is happening in our culture. It is necessary and long overdue.”
The story was written by reporter Katie Way, based on an account from an anonymous women identified as “Grace.” Babe.net relished in the attention the site received.
The situation set off a journalistic debate about both whether the story should have been published, and whether Babe.net framed it correctly. Jezebel published a post headlined, “Babe, What Are You Doing?” that included the critique: “Reporters must be careful not to re-traumatize subjects, which includes consideration of the ways that their reports will be received–that is, often with skepticism and disbelief–and account for that with journalists’ sharpest tools: fidelity to confirmable facts, thorough arguments, and an abiding lack of sensationalism.”
An analysis in The Verge said the Babe.net story contained “baffling reporting choices,” while finding that some of the arguments against the piece were also flawed. It said some criticicism “seems to stem from the assumption that the victim’s account is untrue, simply because a lot of the story’s framing is unnecessary, the strategy of promotion is tacky, and the writer and site are largely unknown.”
Ansari addressed the story again this week, telling an audience in New York Monday that it was still “a terrifying thing to talk about.”
“There were times I felt really upset and humiliated and embarrassed, and ultimately I just felt terrible this person felt this way,” Ansari said, according to Vulture.
The Babe.net fact sheet to prospective buyers boasts that the site generated more than $300,000 in revenue in 2018, and average 4 million monthly uniques. It also says the site has 2 million evergreen uniques through search.
It also invites “parties with a strong interest” to contact Rivlin directly.