I’m probably projecting, so let me own up to that right off the bat.
A couple of years ago, I joined up with a podcast and right away our numbers went up. The chemistry between co-hosts gave the show a new baseline, so we bravely experimented and the numbers got even better.
But then we got cocky.
We assumed that anything we did was what our audience wanted. And maybe that was true. In our case (not io9's), though, that was pretty much getting about getting lazy with our format. Our numbers dipped and we got the message ASAP.
Instead of experimenting more, though, we went back to basics with a focus on being disciplined. We went from being a crew that got inspired only a couple of days before recording to having the month of December fully planned out. Our numbers bounced back.
We’ve loosened up a little since then, but our format remains much tighter for now and our numbers either remain steady or grow bit each week.
So in my very, very much IMO, I think that io9 has evolved into a melange of Blastr and The Mary Sue, but that hasn’t helped them. Sort of how like TLC, History and other channels tried to diversify to only end up delivering more of the same, io9 lost it’s uniqueness.
Their original mission was Science Fiction/Science Fact! (With more lit in the fiction and more science in the fact.) There’s some of that still there, but I think they need to double down on that.
If you had asked me five years ago which would become a sub-site of which, I would have picked Gizmodo as the sub-site candidate. But over the years, Giz stayed the course doing what they do best (which oddly enough is not that unique on the Internet) and they have survived.
To be fair, though, Giz’s focus is pretty straightforward — cover gadgets and expensive “toys,” there’s no Sad/Rabid Puppies or grey areas where you have decide how much news goes to the policies that impact the science. Those are the tough calls that make me not envy io9's staff. (Especially in light of having to reinstate the gray pic policy ... ewwwww.)
Regardless, I am hoping that as we see more fallout from the merger, that io9 finds its footing again and “comes out of the grays” to earn its own button again.
Because we always need more hope when it come to our future fiction.