Local News Site DNAinfo Shuts Down

The local news websites DNAinfo Chicago and Chicagoist on Thursday ceased publication and abruptly shut down.

Billionaire businessman Joe Ricketts, who founded DNAinfo and also TD Ameritrade, announced the closures in a statement. Ricketts is the father of Chicago Cubs owners Tom, Todd and Laura Ricketts.

The move comes just a week after the DNAinfo New York newsroom voted to unionize, but Ricketts says he ceased operations because the websites were not making enough money.

“DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure,” Ricketts said in a statement that is now the only content appearing on the DNAinfo website—and also Chicagoist. “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.”

In 2009, Ricketts started the DNAinfo New York website (the Chicago site launched in 2012) because, he says, he “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.”

Ricketts says the DNAinfo sites had over 15 million visits by more than 9 million people each month. DNAinfo Chicago produced hyperlocal, neighborhood-based coverage, with reporters assigned to cover very specific geographic beats, such as Wicker Park/Bucktown and Hyde Park. The website had broken many stories over the years, including the revelations that the Little League World Champion Jackie Robinson West team, from Chicago’s South Side, had illegally fielded players from outside its district. It was first reported by former DNAinfo reporter Mark Konkol, and it led to the revocation of their Little League World Series Title. 

In recent days, Deputy Editor Jen Sabella left the company to work for the Onion.

Here is the full statement from Ricketts:

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.

Sincerely,

Joe Ricketts

Chief Executive Officer