Built In Brooklyn: Atavist Is Both Publisher And Platform For Online Storytelling

We returned to Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood for the latest episode of Built in Brooklyn. This time we visited the offices of Atavist, which co-founder and CEO Evan Ratliff described as “a storytelling company” — it’s both a publisher of longform journalism and the company behind Creatavist, a platform used by other online publishers.

Ratliff is a journalist himself, and he founded the company with Jefferson Rabb (a web designer and developer — among other things, he’s created websites for authors including Jhumpa Lahiri and Haruki Murakami) and Nicholas Thompson (now the editor of NewYorker.com). Ratliff and Rabb told us that Atavist started out as a side project that explored, in Rabb’s words, “what could be done with long content, reading on digital devices or the web, if you thought about digital first.”


And the platform isn’t just for journalism. As one example, they introduced me to David Gerlach of Blank on Blank — I interviewed Gerlach about how his team works with Creatavist partner to turn archival interviews into animated shorts.

Ratliff and Rabb also talked about how the Dumbo neighborhood has been changing, with Ratliff comparing the activity now with San Francisco in the late ’90s.

“When I first moved into New York, it was desolate,” Rabb said. “It was a great neighborhood, but it was desolate. There was very little business, and now it’s kind of overrun.”