Peter Kafka

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Who Says the Web Doesn’t Pay? Gawker Boss Nick Denton Says He’ll Shell Out for Salacious Stories.

Got a great story, but don’t want to write it yourself? Drop Nick Denton a line: The Gawker Media boss says he’s going to start opening up his checkbook occasionally for people with amazing tales and pictures he can publish.

Denton disclosed his new policy, which isn’t really a new policy but a revival of an old policy, in an interview yesterday with Nieman Journalism Lab. He’s tried this a couple of times before: Last year he experimented with paying readers $7.50 for every 1,000 page views they generated via submissions. And in 2007, he offered a bounty of $10,000 for anyone who could land an “unretouched” version of an image that ended up on the cover of a women’s magazine, and paid out for this shot of Faith Hill.

I followed up with Denton this morning and he told me that he hasn’t fleshed out his plans yet–they’re “half-baked” right now–but they’re likely to be of the Faith Hill variety: Payouts to winner of contests, sweepstakes, etc.

Paying for tips, interviews and exclusives is standard practice outside of the U.S. The U.K.’s Daily Telegraph, for instance, paid a source that helped it break the expense account scandal that’s been roiling that country’s Parliament.

But it’s supposed to be verboten for “respectable” American media, though that self-imposed standard has been eroding for some time. It’s increasingly common, for instance, for TV news operations to pay big “licensing fees” to sought-after interview subjects, purportedly for access to family photos and videos.

Paying for tips is also old hat for newspaper tabloids. And TMZ, Time Warner’s (TWX) gossip powerhouse, has made it well-known that it will pay for tips. It’s a very good bet that the Web site has been writing many checks during the past couple weeks of the Michael Jackson frenzy.

Ultimately, Denton says, he’d like emulate the TMZ model. “I’d love to have their reputation–as the place you go if you want to make a buck.” Dream big!

TMZ boss Harvey Levin talks about his pay-per-tip policy in this interview with Kara Swisher: