|Founded||January 23, 2007(as The Politico)|
Arlington, Virginia, US
|Owner||Axel Springer SE|
Number of employees
Politico (stylized POLITICO), known originally as The Politico, is a political journalism company based in Arlington County, Virginia, that covers politics and policy in the United States and internationally. It primarily distributes content online but also with printed newspapers, radio, and podcasts. Its coverage in Washington, D.C., includes the U.S. Congress, lobbying, the media, and the presidency.
Axel Springer SE, a German publisher, announced in August 2021 that it had agreed to buy Politico from founder Robert Allbritton for over $1 billion. The closing took place in late October 2021. The new owners have indicated that they will add staff, and at some point, put the publication's news content behind a paywall.
Origins, style, and growth
Politico was founded in 2007 to focus on politics with fast-paced Internet reporting in granular detail, comparable to the sports analysis of SportsCenter or ESPN. John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei left The Washington Post to become Politico's editor-in-chief and executive editor, respectively. With the financial backing of Robert L. Allbritton, the pair launched the website on January 23, 2007. Their first hire was Mike Allen, a writer for Time, and Frederick J. Ryan Jr. served as its first president and chief executive officer. Martin Tolchin was another member of the editorial founding team.
From the beginning, journalists covering political campaigns for Politico carried a video camera to each assignment, and they were encouraged to promote their work elsewhere. By 2008, Politico received more than three million unique visits per month.
In September 2008, The New York Times reported that Politico would expand its operations following the 2008 presidential election: "[A]fter Election Day, [Politico] will add reporters, editors, Web engineers and other employees; expand circulation of its newspaper edition in Washington; and print more often." Between the 2008 and 2012 elections, Politico's staff more than tripled in size. Notable additions included two political commentators, Michael Kinsley and Joe Scarborough, as opinion writers.
In 2009, the web pages shortened their name from The Politico to more simply Politico.
In 2011, Politico began to focus more on long-form journalism and news analysis. This shift in coverage received further support in June 2013 with the hiring of Susan Glasser to oversee "opinion from prominent outside voices" and "long-form storytelling". In September 2014, Glasser was tapped to serve as Politico's new editor, following the resignation of Richard Berke the previous month.
VandeHei was named Politico's new CEO in October 2013. Under his leadership, Politico continued to grow: in 2014 alone, it expanded revenues by 25%. By 2016, Politico had nearly 500 employees worldwide.
Amidst reports of tensions, VandeHei and Allen announced that they would leave Politico after the 2016 presidential election. Allbritton was named as CEO in Vandehei's stead. In April 2017, Politico announced that investment banker Patrick Steel would succeed Allbritton as CEO, effective May 8. On February 2, 2021, it was announced that Patrick Steel would step down in the summer of 2021. A new CEO has not been named. 
On June 25, 2007, Mike Allen launched Playbook, a daily early-morning email newsletter. Within a few years, the newsletter had attained a large readership amongst members of the D.C. community. By 2016, over 100,000 people—including "insiders, outsiders, lobbyists and journalists, governors, senators, presidents and would-be presidents"—read Playbook daily. Multiple commentators credit Allen and Playbook with strongly influencing the substance and tone of the rest of the national political news cycle.
Daniel Lippman joined Politico in June 2014, in large part to assist Allen with Playbook. Upon Allen's departure in July 2016, Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman joined Lippman to assume Playbook-writing duties. In March 2017, Politico announced the creation of a second, mid-day edition of Playbook—entitled "Playbook Power Briefing"—written by the same people who authored the morning edition.
Politico Pro launched in 2010. With roughly 100 reporters at its disposal, Politico Pro provides in-depth coverage of over a dozen major topic areas. The service charges its readers by topic area, with the costs running well over $1,000 per topic per year. Despite the paywall in place, Politico Pro has a 93% subscription renewal rate, and it provides one fourth of Politico's overall revenue. Access to the main site and the Playbook remained free of charge.
In November 2013, Politico launched Politico Magazine (ISSN 2381-1595), which is published online and bimonthly in print. In contrast to Politico's focus on "politics and policy scoops" and breaking news, Politico Magazine focuses on "high-impact, magazine-style reporting", such as long-form journalism. The first editor of Politico Magazine was Susan Glasser, who came to the publication from Foreign Policy magazine.
After Glasser was promoted to become Politico's editor, Garrett Graff was named as editor, followed by Stephen Heuser. In December 2016, Blake Hounshell was named the new editor-in-chief of the magazine.
In September 2013, Politico acquired the online news site Capital New York, which also operated separate departments covering Florida and New Jersey. In April 2015, Politico announced its intention to rebrand the state feeds with the Politico name (Politico Florida, Politico New Jersey, and Politico New York) to expand its coverage of state politics. In September 2018, Politico announced it would launch Politico California Pro.
In September 2014, Politico formed a joint venture with German publisher Axel Springer SE to launch its European edition, based in Brussels. In December 2014, the joint venture announced its acquisition of Development Institute International, a leading French events content provider, and European Voice, a European political newspaper, to be re-launched under the Politico brand. Stephen Brown was named editor-in-chief in September 2019. Politico Europe debuted in print on April 23, 2015.
On March 27, 2018, Politico revealed that it had redesigned its website for the first time since 2014. Changes included a redesigned and more mobile-friendly home page, a different typeface (with DIN replacing Proxima Nova), and a new "Quick Pops" feed of breaking news stories.
Acquisition by Axel Springer
In late August 2021, the large German publishing and media firm Axel Springer SE announced plans to buy Politico for over $1 billion.  In October 2021, the firm announced that it had completed the acquisition of Politico for over $1 billion. Axel Springer's Chief Executive Mathias Döpfner said that Politico staff would need to adhere to Axel Springer's principles, including support for a united Europe, Israel’s right to exist and a free-market economy, and that staff who disagree with the principles "should not work for Axel Springer, very clearly". Axel Springer said that they would not require Politico employees to sign documents in support of a transatlantic alliance or Israel, though this policy is enforced at German newspaper Bild, another Axel Springer subsidiary.
Politico Magazine published an article in April 2017 purporting to show long-term links among U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Orthodox Jewish Hasidic dynasty Chabad-Lubavitch. The article was widely condemned, with the head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, saying that it "evokes age-old myths about Jews".
In March 2019 Politico was again accused of anti-semitism when it published an article depicting imagery of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders next to money trees. Sanders, one of two Jewish candidates for the 2020 US presidential election, was targeted for the amount of wealth he accumulated over his lifetime. Politico staff writer Michael Kruse wrote the article detailing the senator's wealth, writing that Sanders "might still be cheap", according to one of the senator's friends, "but he's sure not poor", which was criticized as combining two anti-Semitic tropes (Jews are cheap; Jews are rich). Politico's official Twitter account used the quote to share the story; the tweet was later deleted.
On January 14, 2021, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro was featured as a guest writer for Politico's Playbook newsletter, where he defended House Republicans who opposed the second impeachment of Donald Trump. The newsletter drew backlash from Politico staffers. Matthew Kaminski, editor in chief of Politico, declined to apologize and defended the decision to publish the article, stating that, "We're not going to back away from having published something because some people think it was a mistake to do so." According to the Daily Beast, more than 100 Politico staffers signed onto a letter to publisher Robert Allbritton criticizing Politico's decision to feature Shapiro's article and the response from Kaminski.
Distribution and content
As of 2017, Politico claimed to average 26 million unique visitors a month to its American website, and more than 1.5 million unique visitors to its European site. According to a 2020 Knight Foundation study, Politico is generally read by a moderate to left-leaning audience. Following the acquisition of the company by Axel Springer SE, Haaretz and Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting reported that Politico would enforce a policy on employees requiring them to support pro-Israel views.
The print newspaper had a circulation of approximately 32,000 in 2009, distributed free in Washington, D.C. and Manhattan. The newspaper prints up to five issues a week while Congress is in session and sometimes publishes one issue a week when Congress is in recess. It carries advertising, including full-page ads from trade associations and a large help-wanted section listing Washington political jobs.
Politico is a partner with several news outlets that co-report and distribute its video, print and audio content. Partners include CBS News, ABC affiliate WJLA and cable channel NewsChannel 8 (WJLA and NewsChannel 8 were owned by Allbritton Communications prior to the sale of the broadcast unit to Sinclair Broadcast Group), radio station WTOP-FM, and Yahoo! News election coverage.
Multiple commentators have credited Politico's original organizational philosophy—namely, prioritizing scoops and publishing large numbers of stories—with forcing other, more-established publications to make a number of changes, such as increasing their pace of production and changing their tone.
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