Has Politico imploded?

posted at 7:21 pm on January 29, 2016 by Ed Morrissey

“Politico as we’ve come to know it is no longer,” writes Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple. Several key players hit the exits last night, and the question arises as to what remains at the eight-year-old publication. But, regardless of how one regards Politico, do these changes represent an “implosion”? That conclusion seems premature at best, and probably a little hyperbolic:

In what can be described only as a cataclysm in Beltway media, CEO Jim VandeHei is leaving Politico, the eight-year-old politics website that shook up Washington journalism, according to sources and reports by Huffington Post and CNNMoney.

And in what can be described only as a mega-cataclysm, Politico Chief White House correspondent Mike Allen is joining VandeHei in rushing toward the exits of Politico’s Rosslyn headquarters. Allen writes the daily franchise newsletter “Politico Playbook.” A bearer of occasional scoops, Allen is the driver of very frequent revenue. Weekly sponsorships for “Playbook” run in the $50,000 to $60,000 range this year, depending on the news cycle. And that’s not even rolling in the big money that comes from “Politico Playbook” conferences/interviews anchored by Allen. His work alone — complete with ethicalissues — subsidized a platoon of Politico reporters.

It doesn’t end there: Kim Kingsley, the Chief Operating Officer is leaving as well. Kingsley has provided the glue that bridged Politico’s newsroom and its business side as the site sprinted to revenues approaching $20 million just years after launching. She headed the colonization of radio and cable-news airwaves that helped establish Politico as a preferred Washington source both for readers and advertisers. The company’s successful events business was also an obsession of Kingsley’s. Other departures are Danielle Jones and Chief Revenue Officer Roy Schwartz.

Wemple goes into significant detail on the history of personnel changes at Politico and it’s well worth reading for those interested in behind-the-scenes moves, but seems fuzzier on the actual impact of the departure of so much top-level talent. That’s not exactly new either, as Wemple himself points out, as Politico has had a high turnover level for a long time, perhaps in part because of the high-pressure environment to produce moment-to-moment content. How will these departures change Politico’s environment and mission? There doesn’t appear to be a clear answer, other than the potential gap left in that pressure from VandeHei’s departure — at the end of the year.

Wemple’s not alone at the Post in seeing this as an existential event. Chris Cillizza also calls this an implosion that leaves Politico’s identity in the dust:

Politico, the media company that revolutionized the speed and tone in which politics was covered over the past decade, is no more.

Yes, the company will continue on. But what it will be is something very different than what it was when it launched in early 2007 — or even what it is today. That’s because of the news that broke Thursday night: All but one of the key players in the organization’s senior management will leave — either immediately or at the end of the 2016 election later this year.

The rise and fall (or at least pending reinvention) of Politico is a fascinating window into the current media world — and just how hard it is to build a financial success in such a crowded marketplace. What Politico was (a hyper-metabolized political report that treated campaigns and Congress as a giant game involving some of the most powerful, important and self-important people in the world) and what it evolved into (a site that relied heavily on wonky, policy focused, subscriber-only content) is the story, in a lot of ways, of what happens when journalistic ambition meets business reality.

Cillizza also fails to offer a convincing case about the “fall” of Politico, the end of its identity, or even evidence that it’s going to be reinvented. In fact, he points out that VandeHei claimed a 25% increase in revenues for Politico a year ago (the privately-held company has no requirement to release its financials), and that its already-extant expansions appear to be holding up well. “Politico’s trajectory to date, however,” he concludes, “provides a cautionary tale of the difference between succeeding as a journalistic endeavor and succeeding as a business venture.” If so, it’s a cautionary tale without much evidence of a need for caution, or a lack of success as a business venture.

Publisher Robert Albritton, who owns the company outright, doesn’t seem discouraged. His long missive last night seems to indicate business as usual, and full speed ahead on expansion:

We are about to experience the most exciting, and I expect most enjoyable, period of expansion in ten years. With our revenue rapidly expanding, I am eager to make robust new investments in editorial quality, in technology, in business talent, and in new markets that we have not yet conquered.

It is a mark of Jim’s professionalism that he was determined to not leave until this place was in steady hands. That is why we will have a transition that has been under discussion for nearly a year and will take place over nearly a year.

In the meantime, my other co-founder, John Harris, has signaled in strong terms his desire to stay as POLITICO writes its next chapter. John spent much of 2015 immersed in the highly successful launch of POLITICO’s European edition. With that venture now on an impressive trajectory, John is free to help me in filling some of the most compelling positions in the media business after a competitive search that will be national in scope. In a steady and purposeful way, we are going to replace a team that has taken us to the moon with the next team of media professionals that can take us far beyond that.

As part of this, I have asked John to take on the title of publisher in addition to editor in chief. The goal during this transition is to never lose touch with the magic embedded in the POLITICO brand, which John understands and articulates as well as anyone. This title underscores that John will be trumpeting that brand, and rallying newcomers to it, across the full enterprise, not only in the newsroom. John believes in the power of teamwork, and I’ve encountered no one better in building teams. As co-founder, John helped build the POLITICO we know today. He did something similar, with equal results, in leading the team that built a brand new publication. With this additional role, I am asking him to help lead us once more in building a POLITICO that will be much bigger than we know today—one that spans the country, spans oceans, and spans languages.

Personnel matters, of course, and dramatic personnel changes can be so disruptive as to become derailing. Owners can often put a gloss on bad news in order to spin it into something more benign, too. It seems premature, however, to claim that Politico has “imploded,” or that it has ceased to exist in its current form. This isn’t an ownership change that portended a massive and arbitrary change of direction or a walkout of long-term staff after one, such as seen at The New Republic, which really has imploded. It’s a staff shake-up and one that will unfold over several months. That should give outside observers reason to expect continuity, not collapse, implosion, and/or reinvention.

Whether that will succeed remains to be seen, and while certainly some would celebrate an “implosion” that Cillizza and Wemple lament prematurely, there is hardly cause for either cheering or weeping yet. Before burying “Politico as we knew it,” maybe someone should check for a pulse first. The old boy still seems to be wiggling a bit.


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Comments

Using the media’s take on the Ben Carson, Politico must be on death watch.

nitram on January 29, 2016 at 7:25 PM

I hope so! The place is a seething cesspool of liberal fallacies, wrapped up in ego-driven slavish devotion to worship liberalism and Democrats, and a celebration of all that is vile in the world.

In other words, a clone of the NYT and DNC, and a pale imitation of many of our trolls minds. Good riddance if true.

Vanceone on January 29, 2016 at 7:26 PM

*campaign

nitram on January 29, 2016 at 7:26 PM

Politico was actually pretty good to read up until like a year ago, even if you didn’t agree with its slant, but it has been really bad since that new woman took over.

Redstone on January 29, 2016 at 7:27 PM

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…..

vnvet on January 29, 2016 at 7:27 PM

If this is anything like Trump is finished than Politico is just getting started

The Notorious G.O.P on January 29, 2016 at 7:29 PM

Just giving a pre-emptive reason why Politico won’t have a “45” section if a republican wins.

lorien1973 on January 29, 2016 at 7:30 PM

Did HotAir “implode” after Michelle Malkin left or “exfoliate” like a snake?

VorDaj on January 29, 2016 at 7:34 PM

Didn’t Mike Allen get caught in Hillary’s email scandal? He was kissing up to Hillary and promising softball interviews?

Good riddance.

libfreesMom on January 29, 2016 at 7:34 PM

Who cares?

Valiant on January 29, 2016 at 7:39 PM

Ed’s dream job is opening up.

BKeyser on January 29, 2016 at 7:39 PM

Perhaps they can re-brand as PRAVDA or something …

ShainS on January 29, 2016 at 7:43 PM

…Yawn… clicks remote…

MikeHu on January 29, 2016 at 7:43 PM

Has Politico imploded?

That’s like asking if Bill Clinton has an STD. I don’t care. I don’t go near him. Not my problem.

xNavigator on January 29, 2016 at 7:44 PM

Has Politico imploded?
POSTED AT 7:21 PM ON JANUARY 29, 2016 BY ED MORRISSEY

No more than Hot Air has.

jersey taxpayer on January 29, 2016 at 7:46 PM

It makes sense. Obama after 8 years is gone so no reason for Politico to continue.

Blake on January 29, 2016 at 7:48 PM

They’ve literally lost almost ALL of their “big name” people. All of them.

AYNBLAND on January 29, 2016 at 7:50 PM

OT: Sweden sends sharp signal with plan to expel up to 80,000 asylum seekers

Sweden is to reject up to 80,000 people who applied for asylum in the country last year, as many as half of whom will be forced to leave against their will, according to official estimates.

May be too late but it looks like at least some countries are waking up.

Sugarbuzz on January 29, 2016 at 7:56 PM

right2bright hardest hit.

NWConservative on January 29, 2016 at 7:57 PM

If it weren’t for the occasional Hot Air Headline link, I doubt I’d even be aware of Politico’s existence.

No loss either way.

Oxymoron on January 29, 2016 at 7:57 PM

Ed’s dream job is opening up.

BKeyser on January 29, 2016 at 7:39 PM

AP will have to wait for an opening at Daily Kos

The Notorious G.O.P on January 29, 2016 at 8:02 PM

Off/T: Am I the only one that thinks the Princess Bride is a horrible and unwatchable waste of time? On/T:Never read Politico so I can’t give an informed response about it.

MrsGsBoyTommy on January 29, 2016 at 8:07 PM

Who the Hell Cares?

williamg on January 29, 2016 at 8:12 PM

Anyone can break bogus news. Easily replaceable.

Buddahpundit on January 29, 2016 at 8:16 PM

Ed seems to have missed this tidbit:

“What was true two months ago remains so today – Susan will be with POLITICO through the election,” Politico spokesman Brad Dayspring told the Erik Wemple Blog earlier this month.

Joseph K on January 29, 2016 at 8:28 PM

Anonymous “source” could not be reached for comment.

fitzfong on January 29, 2016 at 8:33 PM

…VandeHei claimed a 25% increase in revenues for Politico a year ago (the privately-held company has no requirement to release its financials)…

There’s a lot of that going around. Much of the stock being traded out there is probably near worthless in reality.

Dr. ZhivBlago on January 29, 2016 at 8:35 PM

Publisher Robert Albritton, who owns the company outright, doesn’t seem discouraged.

Albritton Communications which owns Political-ho also owns several Lefty television stations.

All hard left dripping with bias and notable for non-Leftist commentary on their station web pages conveniently disappearing.

So whether or not Political-ho is solvent or not or stable or not they likely could care less because the propaganda spouted therein is subsidized by the TV stations.

viking01 on January 29, 2016 at 8:44 PM

Where O Where will the RINO’s go to spill their anonymous guts henceforth?

Naturally Curly on January 29, 2016 at 8:45 PM

While I’m a proponent of reading the writings of the Left just so I’m informed about their twisted reality I could care less about the Politico.

This article, however, screams as an attempt by the author to get on their radar. I’m guessing Ed wants to work there. Not sure why anyone here would care about the state of business at Politico….so why else write this post?

goflyers on January 29, 2016 at 8:49 PM

I guess lying with a partisan bent can only take you so far….

Indiana Jim on January 29, 2016 at 8:57 PM

This article, however, screams as an attempt by the author to get on their radar. I’m guessing Ed wants to work there. Not sure why anyone here would care about the state of business at Politico….so why else write this post?

goflyers on January 29, 2016 at 8:49 PM

That was my take. It reads like a Politico press release.

Joseph K on January 29, 2016 at 9:02 PM

Mitch McConnell heartbroken.

rickv404 on January 29, 2016 at 9:03 PM

Has Politico imploded?

Let us hope.

DocNathan on January 29, 2016 at 9:08 PM

Politico started out decent. Enjoyably balanced for WAPo guys, actually.
But they never had no chance of staying objective in that town. Assimilation and all.
Revenues probably have been in decline for awhile……..the 25% increase stuff confirms that.

FlaMurph on January 29, 2016 at 9:08 PM

When will the left and right of center news organizaations learn that they alienate half their audience? I guess they do so well at start-up catering to their limited audience that they can’t understand that business plan is not expandable.

Old Country Boy on January 29, 2016 at 9:25 PM

Curious?

According to a poster over at Power Line, the Politico commenters are having a great old time tonight dealing with the latest Hillario! Clinton email news.

Some of them will be out on the ledge by midnight…anyone here brave enough to go over there and observe?

Del Dolemonte on January 29, 2016 at 9:50 PM

LOL. These vainglorious hacks and their middle school girl drama. No one cares outside of their precious bubble. VandeHai schmandehai. Good grief. Insular much?

Rational Thought on January 29, 2016 at 9:56 PM

Insular much?

Rational Thought on January 29, 2016 at 9:56 PM

Bing.

Jaibones on January 29, 2016 at 10:23 PM

Has Politico imploded?

Plato hardest hit.

locomotivebreath1901 on January 29, 2016 at 10:38 PM

I guess Yugh Yuwitt will have to find some other lefty hacks to interview. Don’t worry, he has an endless supply of them.

BDavis on January 29, 2016 at 10:41 PM

Politico backasswards is Ocitilop.

Tlaloc’s third cousin.

NOW it makes sense.

hillbillyjim on January 29, 2016 at 11:08 PM

So, when there’s a shakeup at a liberal Interwebs mouthpiece, it’s by definition a cataclysmic event?
Got it.
Liberals. Presuming their position as the axis of the earth since…forever.

orangemtl on January 29, 2016 at 11:15 PM

Did HotAir “implode” after Michelle Malkin left or “exfoliate” like a snake?

VorDaj on January 29, 2016 at 7:34 PM

I dunno. Ask the Humpbot or the Peeps.

trigon on January 30, 2016 at 12:58 AM

news? NEWS??? Only in ur blog bubble

winston on January 30, 2016 at 7:24 AM

Blog blogs about another blog.

Can’t muster the strength to care.

OttoParts on January 30, 2016 at 8:02 AM

I’m pretty sure you have to be ploded before you can implode.

I predict the losers from Politico will land at VOX; they’d be a perfect fit.

Just like every left wing talking head loser landed at MSLSD.

Pain Train on January 30, 2016 at 8:39 AM

Isn’t it just an extension of the Compost?
Don’t care, never read it, and rarely spend time looking at posts that link to it.

Galtian on January 30, 2016 at 9:57 AM

Like others – I used to read Politico but it became too strident a while back. Don’t even click links to it normally.

katiejane on January 30, 2016 at 10:11 AM

politico is left wing pap, plain and simple. Always has been, always will be. whenever I see something with an interesting headline on Hot Air or Drudge, I always check to see if it’s a link to something in politico…..if it is, I just move on.

olesparkie on January 30, 2016 at 12:49 PM

Did HotAir “implode” after Michelle Malkin left or “exfoliate” like a snake?

VorDaj on January 29, 2016 at 7:34 PM

I like the analogy. It’s good people are finally recognizing HA for what it really is. F politico, they were nothing more than leftist trash, sort of like HA, but with better writing and editing.

earlgrey on January 30, 2016 at 11:01 PM

Some of them will be out on the ledge by midnight…anyone here brave enough to go over there and observe?

Del Dolemonte on January 29, 2016 at 9:50 PM

Can we cheer them on?

earlgrey on January 30, 2016 at 11:04 PM

Where O Where will the RINO’s go to spill their anonymous guts henceforth?

Naturally Curly on January 29, 2016 at 8:45 PM

Haven’t paid much attention to the anonymous RINO camel molester have you?

Ed’s dream job is opening up.

BKeyser on January 29, 2016 at 7:39 PM

AP will have to wait for an opening at Daily Kos

The Notorious G.O.P on January 29, 2016 at 8:02 PM

They’d both fit right in. Phony conservatives, true RINOs. Malkin should be ashamed. I consider her as much a slime ball as them for her HA scam.

earlgrey on January 30, 2016 at 11:14 PM

This seems – to me anyhow – to signal something bigger.

When I read this and see them reference $20 Million in revenues the only thing that comes to mind is – FOR WHAT ?!!

So this sounds a lot like people leaving because they’re tired of pushing the numbers around to make it seem like a political website is actually worth $20 million or whatever.

Honestly, if Politico ceased to exist, would anyone even notice ? Really. And that would be the biggest indication that they’ve built some kind of virtual empire like Enron. It’s nothing. But we’ve got everyone convinced it’s a real entity worth millions.

It’s not. It’s a collection of “journalists” no different than any other.

deadrody on January 31, 2016 at 11:34 AM

Politico is just another DNC/Obama reprint.

No point in visiting a site like that when you already know what it says.

landlines on February 1, 2016 at 9:44 AM