OLD Media Moves

Politico editor-in-chief talks coronavirus and expansion

May 12, 2020

Posted by Mariam Ahmed

Matthew Kaminski, editor-in-chief Politico, spoke to Press Gazette via a Zoom call from his home in Washington. In his interview, he talks about the ongoing pandemic and how despite many news outlets closing down, Politico currently is not dismissing or laying off employees.

In fact, he talks about expansion. Below is an extract of what he says:

“We started off with one reporter in London back in 2015, and I think we’re probably looking at an office of at least a dozen, but there are plans to expand,” he says. “Politico in Europe sees the UK as a great growth opportunity. And those plans haven’t been pushed back because of the corona crisis.

We haven’t made any cuts so far. We are cautiously optimistic for Politico. And we reserve judgement on what, longer term, is going to happen to the economy – to the global economy, to the American economy.

More than half our business is long-term, premium subscription contracts. That gives you a lot of stability. And you can plan ahead much more easily than [with] advertising, which as you know can go up and down very easily. The second thing that makes us cautiously optimistic is that our advertising business is not directly exposed to the hardest-hit sectors. We don’t have a lot of retail advertising. We don’t really have general interest consumer kinds of advertising.

The publication is now big enough and mature enough to rise to the occasion in a way that it couldn’t have just a couple of years before when we were smaller and organized differently.

We always joked that in Washington our Playbook – which is our anchor newsletter, it’s got around 200,000-plus subscribers now [Politico later clarifies that the number is closer to 300,000], read everywhere – but in fact we only need one or two readers. If Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell on Capitol Hill read it every day, that’s all we really need for this to be a hugely influential newsletter.

The crisis is obviously accelerating a lot of trends that were underway, that were clear, before. So the troubles that you’re seeing with local journalism, those have been aggravated by this.

That said, people consume information now more than ever before. The need for viable information is greater than ever before. A lot of the really great old brands in American journalism – the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal – have pivoted quite successfully to passing the cost of what they do from advertisers to subscribers, and that’s a very stable bedrock for them.

I think for better and for worse, the big, strong players are going probably to emerge strong. [They] will see a short-term impact on their bottom lines, but longer-term will probably emerge stronger.

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