Ed Driscoll

Attention Ian Faith, These Acts Would Welcome Your Management Services

“For Politico ‘High Traffic is Overrated,’” Digiday reports, interviewing Jim VandeHei, one of Politico’s founding editors, on the leftwing Website, previously best-known as being part of Barack Obama’s JournoList-tainted DC palace guard, but now looking to break into the crowded New York marketplace:

Why now?
The stars aligned. We, as a company, are ready to experiment in new markets. Robert Allbritton, as a publisher and entrepreneur, is eager to place new bets. Capital was ready to be bought. And its amazing editors were psyched to work with us.  In the end, it was a no-brainer.

Capital New York gets some cash and structure, Politico gets into the New York market?

What will be new on the business side?
I think our overall approach is simply unique. We target a specific type of reader and specific type of advertiser and then provide both exceptional value for their money.

Capital New York is small in traffic. Is there a mandate to boost those numbers?
High traffic is way overrated.  It works if you are truly a traffic hose, like BuzzFeed. But, for speciality sites, it is all about the right readers. The advertisers we want are the knowing ones seeking to influence a very attractive and hard-to-reach set of readers. If we deliver those readers, the traffic numbers will mean little.

VandeHei got his start with the Washington Post, which only adds to the deja vu feeling of the above quote. In 2009, Howard Kurtz, then still employed by the Post, interviewed then-Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, back when the Post still owned the venerable magazine, which in the previous year or so had taken a slide to the reactionary left that was even more dramatic — and obvious — than its parent company’s own legendary reflexive biases:

Jon Meacham admits it is hard to explain, even to his own people, why chopping Newsweek’s circulation in half is a good thing.

“It’s hugely counterintuitive,” the magazine’s editor says. “The staff doesn’t understand it.”

That step — along with a redesigned, revamped publication that hits newsstands today — may well determine whether the 76-year-old newsmagazine survives. Newsweek will concentrate on two things — reporting and argument — while kissing off any recap of the week’s developments.

Time has been gravitating in that direction as well. But Newsweek, owned by The Washington Post Co., is accelerating the process because it is bleeding red ink, losing nearly $20 million in the first quarter. Newsweek, whose circulation was as high as 3.1 million in recent years, plans to cut that to 1.5 million by the beginning of 2010, in part by discouraging renewals. The magazine will begin charging the average subscriber about 90 cents an issue, nearly double the current rate.

“If we can’t convince a million and a half people we’re worth less than a dollar a week, the market will have spoken,” Meacham says. The newsstand price will also jump from $4.95 to $5.95, a buck more than Time.

As Roger L. Simon quipped at the time, “Attention all dentists: Newsweek to raise its subscription price one dollar” — only to watch the following year, when Newsweek was offloaded by the Post…for one dollar.

Ian Faith, call your office: Spinal Tap is far from the only act who believes in addition through subtraction, and that it benefits from an appeal that’s becoming more “selective.”

Earlier: Report: Tina Brown Parting Ways with the Daily Beast.