I had the opportunity to sit down with Politico executive editor and cofounder Jim VandeHei at the Public Relations Society of America's International Conference.
VandeHei represents the upside to the changing media and communications world. Starting his career as what he called a “conventional journalist,” he helped launch Politico in June 2006 at a time when he said he had only written a handful of online articles. Some may call it excellent foresight, but VandeHei said that the timing of Politico's launch and what took place in the media landscape afterward was just plain luck.
Call it what you want, I attribute at least some of Politico's success to VandeHei's understanding of the current and rapidly changing media and communications worlds.
In today's world, what people are looking for, VandeHei said, is for you to make life easier for them and to cut through the garbage. That is why he believes that there is a successful future in niche media. Consumers want the laser-like focus obtained by niche media and advertisers have direct access to a specific target of consumers.
VandeHei also discussed the opportunity and downfall of the overpopulated media landscape has on communicators. For those looking to get a message out, he said, you can work your way down from the top media outlets and chances are you will find someone willing to publish the message. But at the same time, defensively, that means there is always the chance of a sudden story to get out and work its way up from the “bottom of the media tier to the top.”
At Politico, while he admits the future is unknown, VandeHei said that it will play with its business model to find a way to create a profitable model from superior journalism. Not charging for content was “the dumbest thing we ever did as an industry,” he admitted, and said Politico will look to figure how much quality content people will pay for.