Capital New York is rebranded as Politico expands its reach

April 15, 2015

Politico marched forward with its worldwide expansion on Wednesday, as the company’s soon-to-be-launched European outfit announced a spate of new hires and bureaus, and its Washington-based mothership unveiled a plan to create state-focused satellite publications across the country.

The moves come during a period of immense change for the political news organization. Famed for incremental scoops that drove discussion among politicians and the chattering classes alike, Politico in recent years has both lost some of the reporting talent that fueled its high-metabolism coverage and added intellectual firepower to the staff of a nascent magazine. In today’s crowded political media market—one that Politico has played a large role in creating since its launch in 2007—the news organization appears to be trying to forge a new competitive advantage. And it’s looking outside the confines of the Beltway to do it.

Capital New York, the city- and state-focused news organization bought by Politico’s parent company in 2013, will be rebranded as Politico New York, Capital media reporter Joe Pompeo writes. The Big Apple-based site and print magazine will act as a blueprint for expansion “in a cascading series of states, starting this year with New Jersey and Florida,” Politico chief executive Jim VandeHei wrote in a memo to staff. The outlet will launch events and morning newsletters—similar to its DC-focused Playbook—in California, Massachusetts, and Illinois. Capital’s media desk will also combine with that of Politico Washington.

In a separate announcement Wednesday, Politico Europe announced a handful of new hires—its ranks have swelled to 36 journalists—in anticipation of its April 21 launch. Along with headquarters in Brussels, it has also opened offices in London, Berlin, and Paris.

“Hopefully, our ambitions are very clear to all of you now: We want to–no, we will–be the dominant political and policy media company in Washington, DC AND the states AND Europe AND ultimately everywhere,” VandeHei wrote.

The American expansion is welcome news for state and local political coverage, given the continued atrophy of metro media outlets’ staffs and ambitions. And it began even before Wednesday’s announcement. Politico already launched Florida Playbook, edited by former Miami Herald writer Marc Caputo. Its eponymous magazine publishes political analysis by local writers from across the country. Capital New York, whose newsroom has grown from fewer than 10 to about three dozen since being acquired, boasts bureaus in Albany and New York City Hall.

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“Ever since I walked into the statehouse in Albany after we purchased Capital, and saw again an important, powerful institution with a diminished press presence, I hoped we could find a template for saving coverage of state government,” VandeHei wrote. “I believe we have.”

While Capital’s growing coverage has been a strong addition to the New York political discussion, it’s unclear whether the model will be financially sustainable over the long term—or in other states. A privately held company, Politico claims profitability but does not disclose its finances. It produces a mix of free, advertiser-supported content in print and online alongside subscription-based products targeted at insiders across a variety of industries.

The news organization’s meteoric rise catalyzed a sea change in Washington political reporting, taking full advantage of the Web more aggressively than many legacy counterparts. Its granular coverage plays well in Beltway political circles, but it remains to be seen whether a similar appetite exists in state capitals nationwide. Politico is betting big that it does, and the news organization is wasting no time in putting even more chips on the table. After the launch of Politico New Jersey and Florida later this year, VandeHei wrote, “We will follow with additional states as quickly as we can.”

David Uberti is a writer in New York. He was previously a media reporter for Gizmodo Media Group and a staff writer for CJR. Follow him on Twitter @DavidUberti.