Politico’s founding editors John Harris and Jim VandeHei sat down with the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz on CNN’s Reliable Sources this Sunday.Kurtz asked how Politico “wins” in the Internet business. Here are excerpts from the interview:
HARRIS: Our fundamental model is not driven by traffic. It’s trying to be as essential to the conversation of Washington insiders, people who live and breathe this, whose careers depend upon it.
That’s a rather small audience. Our core audience is kind of at the centre of the circle. That’s the one we care about.
And that’s not chasing traffic. That’s not chasing a huge number. But for the readers who matter most to us, is does our content matter to them? Is it indispensable?
If we can answer that with a yes, then we’re succeeding. If not, or somebody else beats us to it, then we’re not.
KURTZ: Well, it’s interesting, because you’re sort of constantly on deadline in a way that newspapers never used to be.
Is the need for speed sometimes at odds with the depth of reporting, the substance? I mean, we live in an age where you kind of throw up what you have.
VANDEHEI: I think it can be intention. I think to be a first- class news organisation, you have to do both.
I think you can do the quick hits, you can do the information that people need to know at that moment. I think one of the problems with conventional journalism, at last the way I practiced it for most of my career, is the truth is people weren’t reading our stories. We might write a thousand words, but people were only reading for about 200 words of information. And often, 250, 500 words will suffice.
And I think what we try to do is balance getting people the quick-hit information that is quite perishable, but also take the time then to sit back, when a piece deserves a thousand words, deserves a couple days of real thinking, of real editing. And if you can provide that mix, then I think it’s mission accomplished. Then we’re doing what we need to do. We’re informing readers, we’re educating our readers and we’re keeping people in the loop.
KURTZ: Is there such a thing as being too far inside and therefore missing the larger landscape?
HARRIS: I mean, there’s such a thing. That’s why you have to do both. You know, if you’ve been in this business, you’ve got to sort of walk and chew gum at the same time.
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