How Morning Consult covers the intersection between policy and business
Morning Consult started in 2013 and combines media and data to cover the intersection of policy, politics, Wall Street and business strategy.
The company originated out of a health care policy and business email newsletter created by now-CEO Michael Ramlet when he was in college. After the newsletter took off, Ramlet quit his day job and brought on Meghan McCarthy as editor in chief and head of polling and data science Kyle Dropp to create what Morning Consult is today — a company that brings together news, polling and data to inform the country’s leaders in government and industry.
As editor-in-chief, McCarthy has built a newsroom of more than 15 reporters and editors who cover policy and politics on Capitol Hill and in the highly-regulated industries of health, energy, finance and tech.
Prior to joining Morning Consult, McCarthy spent six years covering Congress at National Journal and Congressional Quarterly, with a focus on health policy after the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Meghan’s work has been featured on C-SPAN, MSNBC, National Public Radio, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Atlantic Monthly, among other national news outlets.
McCarthy graduated with high honors from the College of William and Mary with a degree in political science and economics.
She spoke with Talking Biz News by email about Morning Consult and its editorial content. What follows is an edited transcript.
How did you and Michael get the idea for Morning Consult?
Morning Consult started as a health care email newsletter that Michael created in college. It was a combination of the top business and political stories on the health care industry. After Michael moved to D.C., the newsletter went viral among healthcare industry executives.
At that time, I was working as a health care reporter and started reading the newsletter because it was the only morning email that covered the breadth of health news, not just what one publication was covering in DC.
In 2013, Michael approached me about turning the newsletter into a business and expanding into other highly-regulated industries. I immediately agreed that it had serious potential. After seeing (and working through) the turmoil in the D.C. media market after the economy crashed, it was exciting to have an opportunity to build a media company with a clear vision to combine data and journalism.
How did you raise the money to get it off the ground?
Michael raised $30,000 in angel capital. After that, all of our revenue has come directly from sales.
Who is your target audience and how do you get them interested in Morning Consult?
Our target audience are leaders who need to know what’s happening in D.C. and in the business community. Inside the Beltway our readers are senior hill and administration staffers, lobbyists and political operatives. Throughout the rest of the country, our readers range from the hospital C-suite to utility executives to startup founders in Silicon Valley.
Who do you see as your journalism competitors?
The email newsletter market is a crowded, but nobody is covering the intersection of Washington and business like we are. It is exciting, and a challenge, to try and do something that nobody has ever done on this scale before.
How do you use data to inform the stories you cover?
Morning Consult conducts a weekly national poll, on everything from the 2016 presidential race to the Affordable Care Act to bitcoin. We have unprecedented access to public opinion data on the industries that we cover every day. It helps us bring an element to our coverage that no other news outlet can provide.
Why energy, finance, health and technology?
We chose these industries because they are as important in Washington as they are to industry on the ground. In each of these spaces, the policies that Capitol Hill and the administration debate and pass influence business executives’ decisions just as business strategy impacts what people inside the Beltway have to pay attention to.
Tell me about the size of your editorial staff and plans to grow it in 2016.
We doubled our editorial staff in 2015 and plan to keep growing in 2016. Last year was about building our coverage in Washington, this year will be about expanding our business coverage in the industries we cover.
Are there additional industries you’d like to cover?
We want to double down the industries we’ve specialized in now to build our market dominance and be the source of news in DC and the business world for health, energy, finance and tech news.
What’s been the biggest issue in the first two years of operation?
We are growing fast. At this time last year, there were 12 of us in a Capitol Hill rowhouse. We’ve since moved to a (big and beautiful) new office space in downtown D.C.
The biggest challenge, of course, is keeping up with the how rapidly we are evolving. It is a good problem to have, but no doubt keeps us working around the clock to make sure we nail it.