Politico, the digital bible for political junkies, in two weeks will be launching a print magazine, in an era when many have consigned print to the dustbin of history.
Politico has been a major new-media success, rapidly becoming a potent force in national political coverage. But at age seven, the news outlet, which also publishes a Capitol Hill newspaper, is no longer a scrappy underdog.
Jim VandeHei, one of Politico's architects and founders and now its president and CEO, says he thinks his baby does two things quite well: cover the news in quick bursts and spotlight the narrative of the moment. "We got to the point where we had reached what we had set out to do," he says. The question was whether to simply keep doing it "or try to build new muscles."
And, VandeHei says, Politico had "a missing dimension: deeper dive, magazine-style journalism, the kind of pieces that take three or four weeks to report and can be 4,000 or 5,000 words long when they are important enough to warrant it."
VandeHei and Politico cofounder John Harris, its editor-in-chief, had wanted to add that dimension from the get-go. VandeHei says the decision to actually do it was driven by editorial rather than business considerations. But he's sure there is an audience. "We have voracious readers who are willing to read these articles if they are produced at a very high level."
Making sure those articles are at that very high level will be up to Susan Glasser, who will run Politico Magazine. Glasser, a former Washington Post reporter and editor, had gotten very high marks during her tenure at Foreign Policy magazine.
She should have her hands full. In addition to the six-times-a-year print product, it will be her mission to oversee a daily magazine on a brand new website and "The Friday Cover," a weekly email roundup of the best of the digital Politico Magazine that Glasser sees as the equivalent of a weekly newsmagazine.
Glasser will hard! ly be working for strangers. Back when she was editor of the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, she noticed that someone kept beating her paper with a bunch of unsigned items in a newsletter. She investigated and determined that the man behind the mini-scoops was VandeHei. She promptly hired him, and they have been friends ever since.
To deepen the tie both VandeHei and Harris at various times shared the White House beat with Peter Baker, Glasser's husband and currently a New York Times White House correspondent, when the three men were at The Washington Post.
Glasser loved her job at Foreign Policy, where she dramatically upgraded the magazine's digital presence. But she could hardly refuse "a chance to start a magazine from scratch, which is really unique, especially at this time." The magazine, which debuts November 15, the day after the website, "didn't have a font three weeks ago," she said, laughing.
So what will the content be like? VandeHei says the focus will be "similar to Politico, and broader." With Glasser's experience with international news, he says, it makes sense to have a more global focus, looking at "what works elsewhere in the world." Referring both to Washington, D.C., and Politico, he adds, "We live in a bubble, and the magazine allows us to poke that bubble."
The new project launches with two staff writers, including Politico mainstay Glenn Thrush, and will also rely on other Politico staffers as well as outside contributors, some of whom Glasser promises will be"terrific cover story writers."
The magazine, like the print version of Politico, will be distributed free, with an initial run of 40,000 copies.
One thing that will be interesting to watch is how the daily Politico Magazine differs from the daily (or hourly, or minutely) Politico. Glasser says it will be "fun inventing that language." The daily magazine will have outside voices, and will be much less of a prisoner of the intense news cycle that drives Politico.
Glasser says the ! goal is b! oth to be more "agenda-setting" and to engage the news of the moment in a different way, "contextualizing things as they are happening." The plan is to have a daily cover story and four or five other pieces. Bank of America has signed on as exclusive online sponsor for the rest of the year.
Clapping his hands over the advent of Politico Magazine is the man who trademarked the name "Mr.Magazine," Samir Husni, director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the University of Mississippi, School of Journalism. In fact, Husni says Politico is part of a mini-trend, ticking off the names of several publications-- Delish, 429, Allrecipes--that have morphed from digital-only to print.
"Websites are discovering that if you want to make money, you have to come to print," he says. "Print is not dead. People are starting to say, 'Let's pay attention to print.' " And, he adds, "Politico was a little bit smarter than anyone else because they had a print component from the beginning."
But success for the new venture is hardly guaranteed. With great fanfare, magazine giant Conde Nast launched Portfolio, a glossy business magazine, in 2007. Two years later it was gone.
And Politico Magazine is hardly Politico's only big new initiative. In September, owner Robert Allbritton acquired the New York City-centric website Capital New York, with the goal to see whether the company could apply the Politico approach in the Big City.
The company, says VandeHei, is all about answering the question, "Is there a future for the journalism we want to produce?"
So far the outlook seems promising.