NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Manhattan surely has more media outlets per square foot than just about anywhere else in the world, but DNAinfo has proved that there’s still plenty of room on the island for local news. Conceived by Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts, the site is a compendium of hyperlocal news for Manhattan’s many communities. The site’s ten separate verticals provide coverage of neighborhoods from
Washington Heights to
[Profile updated December 18, 2012]
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DNAinfo is privately owned and funded by billionaire Joe Ricketts, founder of Ameritrade and owner of the Chicago Cubs, who thinks of the site as an important part of his search for “new solutions to distribute news, information, and advertising with digital technology.” With Ricketts’s backing, the site is able to employ a robust staff of full and part time editors and reporters, many of whom possess an impressive journalism background. (Sree Sreenivasan, the dean of student affairs at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, is a contributing editor and writes about technology; New York tabloid veteran Murray Weiss is a columnist.)
The site assigns a reporter to each of ten Manhattan neighborhoods; each reporter’s beat ranges from restaurant openings to murder cases. Whether you’re an Upper West Side resident curious about the fire trucks in front of the burrito shop, an East Village local wondering what Lady Gaga“Lady Gaga was up to with that camera crew down the block, or a Harlem resident keeping tabs on Charlie Rangel’s reelection bid, DNAinfo treats your neighborhood as the center of the universe—just as any self-respecting New Yorker would expect.
Speaking of the way her reporters operate, senior editor Nicole Bode explains “This is their beat: they cover schools, politics at a community board level, traffic issues, construction development specific to their neighborhood. So they’re really plugging in in a way that a reporter that’s assigned to maybe a small town in the Midwest would be. They go to every police meeting, every community board meeting, and they’re talking to businesses and people on the street in order to get a vision of what¹s going on on a street by street level.” DNAinfo furthered this mission by launching the Small Business Insider, a video series which highlights neighborhood businesses and the people who run them.
With its combination of localized reporting and editorial prowess, DNAinfo has broken several stories that went overlooked by larger outlets. The site was first to report that the president of the National Arts Club was renting club-owned rooms to trustees at below-market rates. After the story broke, it was soon picked up by larger outlets and ran citywide. DNAinfo was also responsible for breaking one of the most talked-about New York scandals of 2012, in which Anna Gristina, a mother of four, was charged for leading an Upper East Side prostitution ring. Other stories that have garnered sizable attention include reporting on the controversial ticketing of chess players occupying a children’s play area in a Washington Heights Park, and reporting on the use of Twitter by rioters in a Times Square flash mob. DNAinfo’s hyperlocal focus gives the site a serious edge, and legacy media in the city continue to attribute breaking stories to the fledgling site.
DNAinfo sold its first ad in September 2009, and since that time has built a sizable sales and marketing staff of about ten people. Publisher and editorial director Leela de Kretser believes that advertising will play an important part in the site’s growth. “We believe that there are untapped dollars in the local advertising market,” she explains. “We have sales people out on the streets, just like our reporters, working with merchants to drive customers to their neighborhood stores.” Though the business is likely to rely on funding from Ricketts in the near-term, the site’s about page espouses its view that “A nimble news operation available across all digital platforms can attract viewers and make money.”
According to Crain’s Chicago Business, which wrote about DNAinfo in October 2012 as the site prepared to launch a sister publication in Chicago, DNAinfo currently averages 1 million unique visitors and 10 million page views per month, a number that proves Manhattan’s appetite for local news. In May 2012, DNAinfo won six New York Press Club Awards in the Internet category, including best crime reporting and best continuing coverage of the NYPD ticket-fixing scandal. DNAinfo’s six awards tied the Associated Press for the most awards.
Bode notes, “New Yorkers are very loyal to their neighborhoods. So I think people are interested in knowing what happened on their block, why their street closed, what those fire trucks were doing. So giving people that local news—you would think that in a city with as much media saturation as Manhattan, a lot of this would be redundant—but what we’ve found is that a lot of these stories don¹t get the attention they deserve.”
City: New York
Principal Staff: Leela de Kretser, publisher and editorial director; Michael Ventura, managing editor; Nicole Bode, senior editor; Jim Scott, senior editor; Sree Sreenivasan, contributing editor.
Affiliations: DNAinfo.com Chicago.
CMS: Custom CMS