The blogs of war: Engadget vs. Gizmodo
In the consumer-technology blogosphere, the battle between Engadget and Gizmodo has become an all-out smackdown.
(Fortune Magazine) -- In the consumer-technology blogosphere, the rivalry between Engadget and Gizmodo is as lively as a big-city tabloid war. Instead of a headless body in a topless bar, a scoop for these two sites would be running a photograph of a never-seen-before iPod.
To understand how far each will go to break a story, consider that at last year's Consumer Electronics Show, a Gizmodo editor used a construction worker's badge to sneak in before the Las Vegas event opened and post exclusives of the latest hardware.
Gizmodo was long the gadget porn site, but that started to change in 2004 when its founding editor, Peter Rojas, wanted a share of the equity. Gizmodo's owner, Nick Denton (whose holdings also include Gawker), refused. So Rojas left and launched Engadget, partnering with Weblogs Inc. (a company ultimately bought by AOL, which, like Fortune, is owned by Time Warner (Charts, Fortune 500)).
With Engadget, Rojas didn't merely duplicate Gizmodo. He chased tech news, landed a high-profile interview with Bill Gates, and posted hackeresque tips on how to pick a Kryptonite bicycle lock with a Bic pen.
In less than a year the upstart eclipsed Gizmodo; in September, Engadget had just under ten million unique visitors, compared with Gizmodo's eight million. Today venture capitalists estimate each site to be worth between $30 million and $50 million. "He wants to win at all costs," says Denton of his factotum turned nemesis.
About a year ago (after months of increasing traffic at Engadget), Denton brought in Brian Lam, a gadget reviewer from Wired magazine, to revive the flagging Gizmodo. Lam, whose hobbies include kickboxing, now squares off against Rojas's handpicked successor, Engadget's Ryan Block, a former software company systems administrator who can seemingly break down any piece of hardware instantaneously.
At the debut of a new Apple (Charts, Fortune 500) product, the blows can be below the belt. In San Francisco last June, Lam lined up at 7:30 A.M. to make sure he could snag a coveted aisle seat for CEO Steve Jobs' 9:30 A.M. appearance. At 8:30, Block arrived to a lengthening line of journalists. He walked straight to Lam, who was first in line, and shook his hand. "Then he just stayed," Lam says of Block's cutting. (Block claims there was no formal line.) At a September iPod event, Block charged into San Francisco's Moscone Center and inadvertently knocked a Gizmodo intern's video equipment to the floor.
Lam has had his direct hits too, like last November, when he learned which day Nintendo and Sony were delivering their Wii and PlayStation gaming consoles for review. "We got a tip on what day to expect them," Lam says. He and Block were at a Microsoft event in Los Angeles. When Lam heard Block was staying in L.A. for an extra day or two, he knew he had at least a 24-hour head start. He raced back to San Francisco and pulled off what Gizmodo billed as the first-ever complete and synchronized unboxing of two next-generation gaming devices - a double Yahtzee. "All those 15-year-old fanboys went nuts," Lam says.
When pressed, the two rock-'em-sock-'em journos will admit that competition has made both sites better. In public it's a different matter. "We're like two samurai in the movies," Lam says. "We might respect each other's skills, but in the end we have a job to do, and one of us is going to kill the other."