Ratter, a fledgling media company that sought to turn local tabloid-style reporting into viral national news, laid off its entire editorial staff Wednesday.
The startup, which hired staffers in the Bay Area and Los Angeles since its launch last November, let go “every single byline that was on that site,” founder A.J. Daulerio said.
But “It’s not shutting down,” according to Daulerio.
Despite its small size — before the lay-offs Ratter only had four full-time writers — the company had garnered media attention. That’s mainly because of the pedigree of its founder, A.J. Daulerio, a Gawker Media veteran best known for purchasing sexts and voicemails from NFL star Brett Favre and publishing them on the sports website Deadspin.
“We made some editorial adjustments today, which unfortunately looks like a bloodbath even though it’s three people,” Daulerio said (it fired one last week as well). “For the next couple of months we want to test out a couple different directions. This is the move that we wanted to make at this time.”
As of January, Ratter had raised more than $1 million, including funding from Gawker founder Nick Denton and angel investor Mark Cuban, according to CapitalNewYork. That modest funding came as a number of news startups bolstered their warchests in a venture-backed haul.
While such funding has allowed sites such as Buzzfeed and Vox to expand rapidly, some venture-backed media companies have struggled to appease investors. In March, Gigaom, a venture-backed tech news site launched in 2006, announced it had run out of money and shut down.
Ratter launched with lofty ambitions and a gutter perspective. After his team at Gawker broke an international story by exposing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s drug use, Daulerio told Digiday he envisioned Ratter journalists in different cities trying to “sniff out a Rob Ford-type story.”
“The specific goal I told (local editors) was to alienate the local readership as much as possible,” Daulerio told NeimanLab in January. “Their version of L.A., or San Francisco, and hopefully New York, is supposed to be one that is inclusive with a national audience, and completely ignore the people that live there.”
So far in San Francisco, that has added up to weekly stories on the Zodiac murders, a series by a transgender prison guard at San Quentin, and near-daily stories and photos of human excrement on San Francisco streets.
Though he plans to change the content and attract more readers, Daulerio said he doesn’t plan to change the concept. “Going into the next couple months, (we’ll be) rethinking what’s the best way of getting that concept across,” he said.
Investors Denton and Cuban could not be reached for comment.
For now, the site will rely on stories by freelance writers. Daulerio said he eventually plans to hire new staff, but not in the foreseeable future.
Greta Kaul is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: [email protected] Twitter: @gretakaul