Ratter, a network of local tabloid sites founded by former Gawker editor A.J. Daulerio, has decided to “pivot”—that is, terminate its entire roster of editorial staff members. Per Recode’s Noah Kulwin:
Daulerio cut his entire editorial staff Wednesday. He laid off assistant editor Michael Rosen, Ratter San Francisco editor Will Kane and Los Angeles editor Brittany Malooly. Last week, Daulerio let go the site’s managing editor, Kate Conger. Julia Schweizer, Ratter’s VP of operations, is still with the company. Daulerio confirmed the news over the phone.
This is very unsettling! Even more unsettling is what Daulerio told Kulwin: “We’re still a young business, and this is more a pivot than it is anything else.” He declined to specify what this “pivot” is, beyond laying off most of his staff.
Ratter has been hampered by its uncertain editorial vision since its launch. Its desire to establish a collection of Gawker-esque sites focused on local scandals is an interesting ploy (even an admirable one), but the cities targeted thus far—Los Angeles, San Francisco, and most recently Baltimore—already have extremely saturated media markets.
[T]he only consistent directive I’ve given our editors is to alienate the local readership as much as possible. The stories written on Ratter’s local sites should have a broader appeal. Readers shouldn’t have to live in that city to understand or enjoy the local version of the site. Find the internet readership’s connective interest and you’ll increase the chances of having a bigger, more influential audience. That’s the goal, that’s the gimmick, that’s the big idea.
So: How exactly are Ratter editors supposed to investigate local scandals if they’re also supposed to “alienate the local readership”? National websites (e.g., most Gawker Media properties) risk alienating readers with almost any piece of content; it’s an inescapable part of having a large, diffuse audience. On a local level, however, the intended audience tends to overlap heavily, maybe entirely, with the pool of sources and tipsters whose knowledge might lead to a big scandalous story. Alienating a small audience united not by an industry (such as media or sports), but a piece of territory, means yielding potential sources to older, more established outlets.
Anyway. Pour one out for the former Ratter staff. This sucks.