Cocaine, Suicide, Women, And Guns: An A.J. Daulerio Story

Over the next few days, we'll be roasting our former editor A.J. Daulerio, who has moved across the room to edit Gawker, a popular Real Housewives fanzine. If you have an A.J. story to share, or if you would like to participate in some other way, please email craggs@deadspin.com. Lightly sourced slander is welcome. Our guest now is Clay Travis, former Deadspinner and founding editor of Outkick the Coverage.

My first month at Deadspin, A.J. sent me a link to a Dallas sports radio story. "This is a really good story," he said, "just make sure the words cocaine, suicide, women, and guns are in the title and it will do 10,000 page views."

The resulting article was titled:

Dallas Talk Radio Rift Features Guns, Women, Booze, Cocaine, and Suicide Attempt

It did 11,000 page views.

This, in a nutshell, is A.J. Daulerio—he knows what you will click on better than you do.

When I talked with Will Leitch about coming over to Deadspin from my column at CBS, he said, "It's a great place, don't worry about the page views, they take care of themselves."

The first week with A.J., he told me, "If less than 3k people click on what you write, you fucked up. You might have fucked up the title. You might have fucked up the picture. You might have picked a story that no one cares about, but you fucked up."

So, yeah, A.J. knows pageviews. And they didn't take care of themselves.

Being an editor at Deadspin is a bit like being inside the Matrix, everything moves fast, but paradoxically slow as well. You're bombarded with links all day from every person who has cranked out an Internet word that day. The writers you admire at the "mainstream" sites you visit? They're probably pitching you their newest article seeking Deadspin placement that will propel their article forth into the blogosphere's echo chamber.

One day in my first month I remember watching Pardon the Interruption and seeing that 90 percent of their rundown was the front page of Deadspin from that day.

Yeah, everybody read.

It's changed a bit with the rise of social media empowering individual writers, but Deadspin still serves as the sports world's megaphone, the multiplier effect, the way to take a story, article, or anecdote that would have otherwise died in Boise and turn it into one of the biggest stories of the day.

Yep, Deadspin can make it rain.

And no one was better at sifting through the day's clutter and finding the story that would break into the open field and cascade pageviews than A.J. Daulerio.

Basically A.J. was a bit like a shorter, less athletic, less well-groomed Neo with a drinking problem.

He knew the Internet matrix better than anyone and that's a credit to A.J's old fashioned sense for what news moves the needle. In another life he had to work at a 19th-century London newspaper.

Just had to.

I didn't particularly like working at Deadspin—and A.J. and I didn't really like each other, either—because back then I felt like I was simply commenting on other people's work. Find story, take paragraph from story, insert dick joke, and move on.

There will be a lot of dick pic jokes in the next couple of days, but that misses A.J.'s real strength (although he knows penises better than just about anyone): He put Deadspin on a path to churn out more original content on a daily basis than the vast majority of "mainstream" Internet sites. A.J. saw that the web 2.0 template couldn't last for long; eventually you had to break news and provide compelling original content to keep the pageview meter ticking upward.

I was at Deadspin for only six months, and when I left I wanted to strangle A.J. to death, but I learned a ton about the way the Internet works during that time. About the way we all behave when it comes to making the ultimate decision that determines whether any e-commerce business ultimately thrives or dies, to click or not to click.

Every single day at Outkick the Coverage, now more than ever, I put to use some of the dark arts that A.J. mastered and passed along to me.

Will Leitch tried to appeal to the better angels of Deadspin's nature; A.J. didn't give a damn about your better angels. He knew you wanted to see Brett Favre's dick.

And every year more people have come to Deadspin than came the year before, because Deadspin has grown into, god forbid, a legitimate news outlet.

Cocaine, Suicide, Women, And Guns: An A.J. Daulerio StoryS

Back in 2008, the summer Olympics were a huge source of traffic for us. We monitored the coverage searching for the story or anecdote that would explode on the national scene. Sometimes lightning struck. Whether it was the Spanish team making slant-eye gestures—thanks, Pau Gasol!—or George W. Bush reaching for the ass of a women's beach volleyball player.

That "story" broke on the weekend. I say "story" because Deadspin's "story" was 40 words long.

Yet over 150,000 people—a massive number on the weekend back then—clicked on the story to see the picture.

A.J. and I weren't working that weekend, but we talked on the phone.

"I wish George W. Bush would slap a girl's ass every day," A.J. said.

And that, my friends, sums up the Daulerio era at Deadspin.

Good luck at Gawker.