New York hyperlocal startup DNAinfo launches in Chicago

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Three years after the launch of its New York flagship site, DNAinfo, the neighborhood news scrapper bankrolled by billionaire entrepreneur Joe Ricketts, has lifted off in a second city.

DNAinfo Chicago went live earlier today, making it the second installment in what could ultimately turn into a national network of digital community journalism hubs.

The inaugural DNAinfo site has been a hit in New York in terms of traffic, buzz and newsbreaks.

It has yet to be seen whether the site is making any money from its hybrid business model of hyperlocal display advertising and additional revenue streams like sponsored events.

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But when we profiled DNAinfo over the summer, company sources suggested that Ricketts wouldn't be expanding at all if he didn't foresee financial success.

“If we keep going on the path that we’re on right now, we’re pretty confident about being nicely profitable," editorial direcotr Leela De Kretser told us at the time, adding of the Chicago site: "Chicago is home to a lot of small businesses, which are key. Just as we will embed an editorial team in each neighborhood, so too will we have neighborhood sales reps focused on selling online advertising.”

Here's a press release that just came over the transom:

DNAinfo.com, the award-winning online source for neighborhood news, brings its unique brand of neighborhood reporting to the streets of Chicago today with the launch of DNAinfo.com Chicago. Staffed by a fast-growing team of experienced journalists that includes some of Chicago’s finest reporters and editors, the digital news service will provide comprehensive coverage of the city’s neighborhoods and the forces that shape Chicagoans’ lives.

“We’re doing shoe-leather reporting in the best Chicago tradition, but we’re doing it with a new medium,” said Leela de Kretser, editorial director and publisher of DNAinfo.com. “Our reporters are embedded in neighborhoods across the city – from Rogers Park and Lakeview to Englewood and Chatham.”

“We couldn’t be more excited about bringing DNAinfo.com to Chicago,” said DNAinfo.com founder and CEO Joe Ricketts. “Chicago is a city of neighborhoods and neighborhoods are what DNAinfo.com is all about.”

Added de Kretser: “Our focus will be on covering the stories, and breaking the news that Chicagoans care about. DNAinfo.com is produced by Chicagoans, for Chicagoans. We’re telling the neighborhoods’ stories in Chicago’s own voice.”

The launch of DNAinfo.com Chicago comes three years after DNAinfo.com made its debut in New York City. Since then, DNAinfo.com New York has won numerous awards and established itself as a leading source of neighborhood news in the Big Apple, regularly beating the major New York dailies and attracting more than 2 million visits per month.

DNAinfo.com Chicago launches with a staff of 20 reporters and editors, all proven Chicago journalists. They include Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mark Konkol, formerly of the Chicago Sun-Times, as well as senior editors Dave Newbart and Justin Breen, formerly of the Sun-Times and the Times of Northwest Indiana, respectively. Jen Sabella and Lizzie Schiffman both join DNAinfo.com from Huffington Post Chicago. Erin Meyer joins DNAinfo.com from the Chicago Tribune and veteran journalist Ted Cox, formerly of the Daily Herald, will cover City Hall and politics for DNAinfo.com.

DNAinfo.com’s New York site launched in 2009; its mission was, and is, to do objective news reporting in all five boroughs of the city. From the beginning, founder Ricketts told his editorial staff “to cover the news fairly and fearlessly.”

Ricketts’ business plan calls for DNAinfo.com to be run as a for-profit venture selling advertisements to community businesses in the neighborhoods it covered – and to provide original reporting, not aggregation of other outlets’ coverage. DNAinfo.com also arms its reporters with the latest in newsgathering technology, enabling them to file stories and videos from their laptops and phones as news breaks.

The model has been a stunning, award-winning success, providing a sizzling blend of hard news, exclusives, and off-beat stories from all corners of New York City. In the past year, DNAinfo.com New York has broken stories ranging from the serious to the quirky, including:

· The NYPD’s ticket-fixing scandal

· The National Arts Club leadership scandal

· The pizza-eating goat story

· The story of “Millionaire Madam” Anna Gristina

“Launching DNAinfo.com Chicago is exhilarating,” de Kretser said. “We’re excited about bringing our brand of reporting here. We’ll provide the best coverage Chicagoans can get on crime, schools, restaurants and politics – you name it.”