RIP DNAinfo & Gothamist

The neighborhood news blog-o-sphere got a lot smaller today.  Readers attempting to peruse DNAinfo or Gothamist earlier this evening received a rude awakening.

As reported by the New York Times, just last week the writers and editors of both newsrooms voted to unionize.  Today at 5:00 pm, Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade and owner of the two websites, shuttered the outlets claiming they just didn’t turn enough profit.  Rest assured, our little slice of neighborhood journalism isn’t going anywhere.

“November 2, 2017

Dear DNAinfo and Gothamist Readers:

Today, I’ve made the difficult decision to discontinue publishing DNAinfo and Gothamist. Reaching this decision wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t one I made lightly.

I started DNAinfo in 2009 at a time when few people were investing in media companies. But I believed an opportunity existed to build a successful company that would report unbiased neighborhood news and information. These were stories that weren’t getting told, and because I believe people care deeply about the things that happen where they live and work, I thought we could build a large and loyal audience that advertisers would want to reach.

A lot of what I believed would happen did, but not all of it. Today, DNAinfo and Gothamist deliver news and information each day to over half a million people’s email inboxes; we have over 2 million fans across our social channels; and each month, we have over 15 million visits to our sites by over 9 million people. But more important than large numbers of visits and fans, we’ve reported tens of thousands of stories that have informed, impacted, and inspired millions of people. And in the process, I believe we’ve left the world a better place.

But DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure. And while we made important progress toward building DNAinfo into a successful business, in the end, that progress hasn’t been sufficient to support the tremendous effort and expense needed to produce the type of journalism on which the company was founded. I want to thank our readers for their support and loyalty through the years. And I want to thank our employees for their tireless effort and dedication.

I’m hopeful that in time, someone will crack the code on a business that can support exceptional neighborhood storytelling for I believe telling those stories remains essential.


Joe Ricketts
Chief Executive Officer”

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  • Banet


  • neighboronhicks

    Unamerican. Remember what Labor Day means. It’s not just a day off with pay. #history

  • Jorale-man

    Will definitely miss Gothamist. No other site captured the wacky and colorful side of the city so well. Glad the BHB is here to cover what we need to know in the neighborhood.

  • Arch Stanton

    OMG what are all those diehard commenters going to do now… maybe some of them will wind up here.

  • ykwhthis….

    Yes, and wait till they find me here waiting for them…I wonder what mild reactions they might have….

    Seriously folks, I had numerous encounters with people who said they were reporters and staff. I refer everyone to my revealing comments on the Wensday open forum…..

  • Love Laner

    I checked Gothamist daily so I really will miss it! I hope some of the writers find their way to the Brooklyn Eagle, or Brooklyn Vegan, or any of the other (dwindling) local sites/papers. And I’m doubly grateful that BHB is persevering!

  • KXrVrii1

    The business was already losing money, and had failed to prove its ability to ever make money with its business model.

    The company had 115 employees according to the NY times, and the above usage metrics are not even close to supporting them. There are solo youtubers who have better metrics.

    And the severance was fairly good – 3 months administrative leave, and then 4 weeks severance. So roughly double what the WARN act would provide, if it applied.

    So if you are the investor funding that loss, and then a bunch of employees come to you with an action that will increase those costs, and potentially increase severance costs down the road, what would you do?

  • neighboronhicks

    It’s a billionaires pet project, not a public company with shareholders entitled to protections or an impact on capital markets. An action like this can be conveniently disguised as an issue with overall lack of profitability (which is made less strong as an argument given the recent acquisition activity—clearly there was sufficient capital to fund that). But given the billionaire’s recent opinion article denouncing unions as a concept (despite the fact that there is a right granted by the federal government to workers to engage in collective bargaining on the wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment), it’s easily identified as a strike at workers rights, one of the few that might not be found an unfair labor practice since he closed down the whole business.

  • Andrew Porter

    It was extremely useful, and I will miss it. Like Brownstoner before it was ruined, there was a lively discussion on many of the posts.

    I commented there fairly frequently, including some of the stranger JPGs and GIFs I’ve accumulated.

    Did you see my recent posts of women dressed in Princess Leia’s metal bikini?

  • Andrew Porter

    The BHB is still alive, despite Homer taking many of the passwords for various functions literally to the grave. I suggested to Claude that some functions be done in other ways, like having a weekly e-alert to posts here, via Yahoo Groups. Then there are advertising sales…

  • KXrVrii1

    I don’t think it was disguised at all. Ricketts was explicit that it was an issue both of lack of profitability and of what he considered alignment among owners and employees.

    As sole shareholder, he was willing to let it run at a loss (meaning it was funded with his capital) while seeing if there was a business model, provided that he felt employees, management and shareholders were aligned.

    As it became more and more clear the business model was not profitable, the employees decided to unionize. That meant the business would be less profitable, and, per his blog post, meant that he would now have to deal with a union who’s interests he believed would not always align with his. At that point, he no longer had interest in continuing to fund the business’s losses.

    And even if you support unions at larger, more established and profitable companies, there are good arguments they aren’t a great fit for startups / cash burning companies. This is both because startups arguably need more flexibility, but also because there is clearly less leverage.

    If the stockholders and management are making money, then the workers have leverage, as it may be better to increase costs rather than lose everything. But when a single shareholder is funding the company at a loss, competitors are doing layoffs and everyone is wondering if the specific segment is ever going to make money… not so much.

    And by the way, it wasn’t all employees who unionized, it was the writers. So they acted in their self interest against other employees and the shareholder, and the shareholder then did the same.

  • Claude Scales
  • Arch Stanton

    I wonder how long it will take said “oligarch” to slap a lawsuit on them for using the trademark protected name “Gothamist”…

  • Claude Scales

    Unfortunately, probably not long.

  • SilverShoes

    Thank you. This is the best articulation I have read.

  • Jorale-man

    Afraid I missed the Princess Leia post. There was no other comments section quite like Gothamist’s (for better and for worse!). Funny, I was just reading the site hours before the owner shut it down, and there was no indication something was amiss.

  • Reggie

    It wasn’t even all writers, as I understand it, only those is New York.

  • Danny K

    According to that website, nobody from Gothamist has anything to do with it.

  • Claude Scales

    That hadn’t been posted at the time I posted the link above. In any event, it’s an attempt to carry on what Gothamist/DNA Info were doing. As for the trademark issue, it’s up to the previous owner if he wishes to enforce it. I’m all for the reasonable protection of intellectual property, but I think that anyone who shuts down a publication under the circumstances described should at least be faced with a rebuttable presumption that the mark has also been abandoned.

  • Arch Stanton

    An argument perhaps, but try and sell cars under the name “Edsel” and see how fast Ford Motor Co slaps a lawsuit on you.

  • Danny K

    Ricketts will want to protect the mark in the hopes that someone will buy it back from him. I bet if another investor offered to take Gothamist off his hands, for whatever Ricketts paid for it six months ago, he would take that offer.