DNAinfo Goes Block by Block

News site churns neighborhood coverage—but can they sell enough hyperlocal ads against it?

They say there are eight million stories in New York City. But DNAinfo.com, a hyperlocal, hyperactive Manhattan news site rumored to be considering a bid for the New York Daily News, may soon prove the old adage modest in scope. In addition to producing 50 to 60 stories a day, it has grand plans for expanding in the very near future.

“A lot of people are shocked at how much news we create,” says editorial director and publisher Leela de Kretser. “We churn out a lot.”

DNAinfo—the name stands for Digital News and Information—was launched in November 2009 by Joe Ricketts, the founder of Ameritrade. Ricketts is something of a Renaissance man; he also owns a fly fishing lodge, a bison farm, a film company, an educational foundation, and the Chicago Cubs. Why add news to that mix? “He likes the idea of running to a business when others are running away from it,” de Kretser says of her boss. “He saw people leaving the news business, and he believes that there is a model there—particularly in the neighborhood model.”

De Kretser and her 22-person editorial staff, which includes veterans of the Daily News and New York Post, cover 10 areas of Manhattan and plan to have a reporter in each neighborhood by the end of the year. Almost every news item from Manhattan, including the most minor, finds its way on to the site, from a 12-year-old struck by a car on 78th Street to a trend piece on drunk puppy buying in the West Village. (That one went viral.) In a little more than a year, it’s earned 1.2 million visits per month.

“There was a real thirst for it,” says de Kretser, who came to Manhattan from Melbourne, and brought a thick Australian accent with her. “We picked New York, and specifically Manhattan, because we didn’t think the traditional outlets were covering hyperlocal news very well.”

DNAinfo is betting that the bars and restaurants care about the locals as well. “Merchants want to reach these people,” de Kretser says. “They especially want to reach the Manhattan demographic and the people in their neighborhood. Year one was about building the audience; year two is about building the sales team.”

In the coming months, DNAinfo plans to introduce its first paid-content project: a crime and safety guide to each of the neighborhoods, complete with official data and interactive maps, which can be accessed for 99 cents per neighborhood. Next year, it plans to launch a product called “The Guide,” which Kretser describes as “a directory of every single business in the city.”

Ricketts also intends to take the site’s coverage beyond the borough. “There is a plan for expansion, and we’re executing it,” he wrote in an email. De Kretser goes further. “Other cities are definitely on the horizon,” she says. “We’ll be having a discussion over expansion within the next few months.”

As for plans to nab the Daily News—a rumor first reported by the Post’s Keith Kelly—de Kretser is clear: “We are not, at this stage, in any discussion about acquiring businesses.” So far they seem to be doing just fine online.