Last updated on 27 September 2017
Politico is an American political journalism company based in Arlington County, Virginia, that covers politics and policy in the United States and internationally. It distributes content through television, the Internet, physical newspapers, radio, and podcasts. Its coverage in Washington, D.C., includes the U.S. Congress, lobbying, media and the presidency.
Origins, style, and growth
John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei left The Washington Post to become Politico's editor-in-chief and executive editor, respectively. With the financial backing of Robert L. Allbritton, the pair launched the website on January 23, 2007. Their first hire was Mike Allen, a writer for Time. Frederick J. Ryan Jr. served as Politico's first president and chief executive officer.
From the beginning, journalists covering political campaigns for Politico carried a video camera to each assignment, and they were encouraged to promote their work elsewhere. By 2008, Politico received more than three million unique visits per month.
In September 2008, The New York Times reported that Politico would expand its operations following the 2008 presidential election: "[A]fter Election Day, [Politico] will add reporters, editors, Web engineers and other employees; expand circulation of its newspaper edition in Washington; and print more often." Between the 2008 and 2012 elections, Politico's staff more than tripled in size. Notable additions included two political commentators, Michael Kinsley and Joe Scarborough, as opinion writers.
In 2011, Politico began to focus more on long-form journalism and news analysis. This shift in coverage received further support in June 2013 with the hiring of Susan Glasser to oversee “opinion from prominent outside voices” and “long-form storytelling.” In September 2014, Glasser was tapped to serve as Politico's new editor, following the resignation of Richard Berke the previous month.
In October 2013, VandeHei was named Politico's new chief executive. Under his leadership, Politico continued to grow. In 2014 alone, Politico expanded revenues by 25%. By 2016, Politico had nearly 500 employees worldwide.
Amidst reports of tensions, VandeHei and Allen announced that they would leave Politico after the 2016 presidential election. Allbritton was named as CEO in Vandehei's stead. In April 2017, Politico announced that investment banker Patrick Steel would succeed as Allbritton as CEO, effective May 8.
On June 25, 2007, Mike Allen launched Playbook, a daily early-morning email newsletter. Within a few years, the newspaper had attained a large readership amongst members of the D.C. community. By 2016, over 100,000 people – including “insiders, outsiders, lobbyists and journalists, governors, senators, presidents and would-be presidents” – read Playbook daily. Multiple commentators credit Allen and Playbook with strongly influencing the substance and tone of the rest of the national political news cycle.
Daniel Lippman joined Politico in June 2014, in large part to assist Allen with Playbook. Upon Allen’s departure in July 2016, Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman joined Lippman to assume Playbook-writing duties. In March 2017, Politico announced the creation of a second, mid-day edition of Playbook – entitled “Playbook Power Briefing” – written by the same people who authored the morning edition.
As of 2017, a weekly sponsorship of Playbook costs between $50,000 and $60,000.
Politico Pro launched in 2010. With roughly 100 reporters at its disposal, Politico Pro provides in-depth coverage of over a dozen major topic areas. The service charges its readers by topic area, with the costs running well over $1,000 per topic per year. Despite the paywall in place, Politico Pro has a 93% subscription renewal rate, and it provides one fourth of Politico's overall revenue. Access to the main site and the Playbook remained free of charge.
In November 2013, Politico launched Politico Magazine, which is published online and bimonthly in print. In contrast to Politico's focus on "politics and policy scoops" and breaking news, Politico Magazine focuses on "high-impact, magazine-style reporting", such as long-form journalism. The first editor of Politico Magazine was Susan Glasser, who came to the publication from Foreign Policy magazine.
After Glasser was promoted to become Politico's editor, Garrett Graff was named as editor, followed by Stephen Heuser. In December 2016, Blake Hounshell was named the new editor-in-chief of the magazine.
Along with a targeted free audience of roughly 30,000 readers, Politico Magazine is available via subscription for $200 per year. Content from Politico Magazine is also accessible online.
In September 2013, Politico acquired the online news site Capital New York, which also operated separate departments covering Florida and New Jersey. In April 2015, Politico announced its intention to rebrand the state feeds with the Politico name (Politico Florida, Politico New Jersey, and Politico New York) to expand its coverage of state politics.
In September 2014, Politico formed a joint venture with German publisher Axel Springer SE to launch its European edition, based in Brussels. In December 2014, the joint venture announced its acquisition of Development Institute International, a leading French events content provider, and European Voice, a European political newspaper, to be re-launched under the Politico brand. Former Wall Street Journal editorial board member Matthew Kaminski is the executive editor of the European edition. Politico Europe debuted in print on April 23, 2015.
In a 2007 opinion piece, progressive watchdog group Media Matters for America accused Politico of having a "Republican tilt". Despite these accusations, a 2012 study found that the percentage of Politico readers that identify as Democrats – 29% – is the same as the percentage that identifies as Republicans.
In November 2016, Politico editor Michael Hirsh resigned after publishing the home address of white supremacist Richard B. Spencer on Facebook.
In April 2017, Politico Magazine published an article purporting to show long-term links between U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Jewish outreach organization Chabad-Lubavitch. The article was widely condemned, with the head of the Anti-Defamation League Jonathan Greenblatt saying that it "evokes age-old myths about Jews".
Ownership, distribution and content
As of 2017, Politico averaged 26 million unique visitors a month to its American website, and more than 1.5 million unique visitors to its European site.
The print newspaper has a circulation of approximately 32,000, distributed for free in Washington, D.C. and Manhattan. The newspaper prints up to five issues a week while Congress is in session and sometimes publishes one issue a week when Congress is in recess. It carries advertising, including full-page ads from trade associations and a large help-wanted section listing Washington political jobs.
Politico is a partner with several news outlets that co-report and distribute its video, print and audio content. Partners include CBS News, Allbritton Communications's ABC station WJLA and cable channel NewsChannel 8, radio station WTOP-FM, and Yahoo! News election coverage.
Multiple commentators have credited Politico's original organizational philosophy – namely, prioritizing scoops and publishing large quantities of stories – with forcing more established publications to make a number of changes, such as increasing their pace of production and changing their tone.
Among the journalists who have worked for Politico are Mike Allen, John Bresnahan, Carrie Budoff Brown, Alex Burns, Dylan Byers, Josh Gerstein, Andrew Glass, Susan Glasser, Darren Goode, Maggie Haberman, James Hohmann, Anna Palmer, Manu Raju, Daria Knight, Lois Romano, Darren Samuelsohn, Jack Shafer, Jake Sherman, Ben Smith, Eli Stokols, Glenn Thrush, Kenneth Vogel, and Ben White.
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