Former celebrity wrestler, Hulk Hogan, is suing tabloid media property, Gawker, for $100 million.
Hogan's grievance is that Gawker posted on the site a video of him having sex. Since the trial takes place in a state court in Florida, where he is loved, he has a good chance of winning. State courts, unlike federal, tend to demand less of a burden of proof from plaintiffs. Also, it's a situation of all-American boy-made-good against the New Yorkish media.
That verdict, even if appealed, can destroy Gawker founder and owner, Nick Denton. He would lose financial control of Gawker.
According to FL law, he would have to put up the amount of the funds, plus interest, awarded by the jury. If the site is to survive, he would have to tap into a deep third-party pocket. In addition, his personal branding and the Gawker brand would take a hit. Some or many of the 300 Gawker employees can lose their jobs or contract positions.
Those are the implications of this litigation for Gawker and Denton. The bigger issue in media is recognition that pushing the envelope to create clickbait involves major risk to the enterprise. Perhaps out-there sites should consider erring on the side of caution.
Admittedly the science and art of clickbait are magnets for actual selling, influence, branding, rebranding, advertising dollars and subscriptions. Communications professionals who know how to do that well are in demand.
But, the Hogan litigation should be sending a chill through digital tabloid media. If the plaintiff prevails, there could be plenty of copycat lawsuits. Since they could be approached on a contingency basis and could create brandnames for plaintiff lawyers, that massive attack on tabloids is doable.