Politico is expanding Playbook to London

Politico is expanding its London presence, with plans to extend its trademark newsletter Playbook to the capital in September.

The Washington, D.C.,-based political news site hired Daily Mirror’s political editor, Jack Blanchard, to write the London Playbook newsletter. It will be the third version of its flagship newsletter after Brussels Playbook, which launched in 2015 and has 70,000 subscribers. All in, Playbook has 250,000 subscribers globally.

Politico Europe, a joint venture with Axel Springer, expanded to Brussels in 2015, where it now has a 60-person editorial team. Its London office has just seven editorial and three commercial staffers, with other execs like head of audience development and growth Kate Day, commuting between Brussels and London. It also has reporters in Paris, Berlin and Warsaw.

Growing the London audience became a bigger priority after the European referendum, though. Politico’s Brexit-related coverage last summer gave its U.K. traffic a serious boost. Since then, it has launched two other ad-funded newsletters: Brexit Files, which has about 20,000 subscribers; and the Sunday Crunch, which has around 10,000. The Sunday Crunch provides a roundup of news from a wide range of sources. By launching Playbook, Politico hopes to cement its place as the destination for in-depth, authoritative journalism on politics and policy in Westminster.

Politico has also re-introduced its Apple Wallet election tracker for the U.K.’s snap election this month. It was used as a tool for those wanting news and poll updates on the EU Referendum voting last summer.

“We want to be the must-read for anyone who wants to understand what’s happening in Westminster, Washington and Brussels and how those power centers interact,” said Matthew Kaminski, executive editor of Politico Europe.

The continuing Brexit saga cemented London as a major focus for editorial and commercial growth. Playbook isn’t as well known in the U.K. as it is in Brussels, although the team plans to change that via a mix of increased editorial output, London-based events and marketing. Politico also aims to build its Politico Pro subscription business, which provides information about the intersection of policy and politics with industries including finance and energy. Kaminski wouldn’t be specific about Pro subscriptions revenue for the U.K. but said it was “fairly substantial.”

“We’re a relatively new player in the U.K. and we need to build up the brand and show how we differentiate,” said Day. We have a very different model to most national media in Britain because we focus so narrowly on politics and policy. We want to come in and offer something distinctive.”

While most mainstream national newspapers and politically focused magazines are enjoying an audience windfall for political news, Politico is going after the Westminster village audience, the equivalent of the D.C. Beltway types. Douglas McCabe, CEO of media analyst firm Enders, said Politico’s expansion of Playbook and its London team is timely.

“This is a really interesting move. European and U.S. politicians, economists and civil servants need to understand Westminster now more than ever,” he said. “Many of the U.K. media brands are focused on reaching enormous audiences using very broad editorial remits, and Politico sees the opposite opportunity: a very tight focus, reaching a narrow but influential audience.”

Image: Courtesy of CommunityNI. 


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