A few musings on why DNAInfo bought the Gothamist network

Today DNAInfo announced it is buying the Gothamist network. Why? Well here are a few thoughts.

(Full disclosure: I used to be a Chicagoist editor though it’s been a while since I’ve had any inside info on what goes on there. And I’m friendly with people at DNA but, again, I have no inside info on this deal and haven’t talked to anyone there about it. I’m merely an outside observer with a lot of time spent observing and working in Chicago media.)

First, this solves DNA’s need for more audience and Chicagoist’s need for content. DNAInfo New York has 2.5 million uniques, 108K newsletter subscribers and a combined social audience of about 160K though some of all of those numbers are duplicative, obviously.

But I think Chicago is the key to this sale. DNAInfo Chicago has about 1.8 million uniques, 168K newsletter subscribers and a combined social audience of 200K. Again, some duplication there. Chicago is DNA’s only other city site and has a larger email and social audience than NYC.

I’m not sure if the Gothamist figures here are rolled up or not, but I think it’s safe to say they are. So that’s 8M uniques across all their cities (including LA, DC, etc.), 846K of which are in Chicago.

The deal terms weren’t announced, but if Politico is to be believed and the deal is in the low seven figures, even with audience duplication you’re talking about significantly less than a dollar per user acquisition, not to mention DNA’s new footprint it all the -Ist cities. This was a bargain just in terms of numbers.

Again, you assume some duplication there but DNAInfo and Gothamist are all trying to own the very localized, neighborhood-focused stories. So either way you look at it, each network is going after the same type of reader though -Ist skews younger and DNA with a higher HHI.

But look also at the mission of the two companies and what’s been happening competitively in Chicago.

With ProPublica IL’s impending launch and Billy Penn’s rumored Chicago entry, there’s more competition in Chicago for local news eyeballs and DNA needed to shore up its presence here. Buying Chicagoist was an easy way to do that.

And, again, the types of stories DNA does well used to be the -Ist sites bread and butter (as well as Huffington Post Chicago’s local outpost which has since shuttered). -Ists aggregated DNA and both companies chipped away at each other. I don’t know what it means to be “DNA’s official blog” as it says in the announcement but I’d guess it means DNA can get aggregation eyeballs without damaging the strong reporting of the DNA brand. And it grabs back the lost audience that would read -Ist aggregation of DNA stories but not click through.

Gothamist has been trying to get bought for at least seven years now. Ricketts’ politics aside, ownership by a company who believes in local news is a much better ending than Kabletown.

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