Good reader on the political Web site Politico, and its entry as a Web-based news presence. (It does have a 3-day a week print version in D.C.) Here’s the bit about revenue, the most important part of the story:
Politico’s staff is growing–the newsroom totals more than 60 staffers, and recent hires include former Times Pentagon correspondent David Cloud and former New York Sun reporter Josh Gerstein. Shortly after the election, Politico announced it would increase the frequency of its print edition from three to five days per week when Congress is in session and that it would reassign reporters to cover the White House; it also set up a blog, Politico 44, to chronicle the Obama administration. At least 68 newspapers and some 36 TV outlets have signed on to carry Politico’s content for free in exchange for a share of its advertising revenue.
Politico’s advertising base so far has been insulated from the economic meltdown. One reason is that Politico’s advertisers are mainly lobbyists who need to sway Congress in good times and in bad. Politico also vastly undercuts the big dailies with lower ad rates (a full-page color ad costs $11,000, according to the rate card; a full-page ad in the Times runs more than $100, 000). But Allbritton adds that he’s not wedded to his print outlet: When the day comes that virtually all readers migrate online, he’s happy to scrap the paper copy: “I said from the very beginning, I could care less if the revenue is on the print side or the Web side. As long as the revenue is there.” Allbritton says Politico could conceivably be Web-only within five years. (Allbritton does concede that “a certain generation up there on the Hill” wants paper. “From their point of view, if you don’t have a physical paper, you’re not a player. I once joked, ‘Why don’t we take the website and print it out for them?'”)
Allbritton is dismissive of one of the things print papers did well–long-term, long-form investigative journalism–and tells me Politico is unlikely to field an investigative reporting squad. “I think we have to acknowledge that the money is spent for reputational benefits and a public service play,” he says of the Times’ and the Post’s investment in enterprise journalism. “Why does someone have to go off and write their thesis paper while they do it?” More than that, Allbritton worries that the newspaper model itself is collapsing. “I don’t know if [the Times is] going to be around in a few years,” he says. “I love the Times, but I’m worried.”
I’m worried about investigative journalism in this new-media era. But, I’m sure something will work out. Perhaps the investigative journalism will be left up to the conservative and liberal foundations that investigate their own agendas.