In a sense, Culture11 was running up against the natural limits of its niche. "We had expanded so much that I didn’t even know who was writing for us anymore," Carter said. "We were getting a lot of flack from conservatives—‘What’s conservative about your site?’ " While Carter was enthusiastic about Culture11’s coverage of television—the last medium still largely regulated by federally imposed decency standards—he had come to the conclusion that, faced with the explicitness of contemporary music, there was a limit to what the site had to say. "How do you talk about something like gangsta rap from a conservative perspective?" he said. "Are you going to critique it, or just disagree with it?" Friedersdorf tried gamely to square that circle in a piece exploring his conflicted feelings about dancing to Lil Jon at a wedding, but it was an essay that could have been written only so many times.
On the other hand, if new investors revive Culture11 and give it a proper launch, it will be an opportunity to find out if Kuo was right: whether there is a niche for an enterprise like Culture11, or whether right-leaning readers will opt in greater numbers for comforting cocoons like Big Hollywood. In the end, the market will decide—and what could be more conservative than that?
I really liked Culture11, and not just because it is part of the exclusive fraternity of publications that has paid me to write about boxing. It was an inventive, unpredictable website with a lot of unique, original voices. Its conservatism was thoughtful and genuine rather than knee-jerk, and therefore far more thought-provoking than, say, Fox News. Insofar as its failure is due to the limited appeal of its niche, that's quite an indictment of conservative readers. Slate occupies a very similar space on the left (though with more fame and pedigree behind it), and the idea that it would fail because it publishes Christopher Hitchens while competitors like the Huffington Post are more uniformly liberal is laughable.