Headquartered in Brussels, the European arm was jointly launched in 2015 by US-based Politico and German publisher Axel Springer as a successor to English-language newspaper European Voice.
Speaking at the Digital Media Strategies conference in London on Tuesday, Matthew Kaminski, executive editor of Politico Europe, said the aim is to “develop more resources than anyone has to cover politics and policy”.
“We want to be the ESPN for politics,” Kaminski added.
“So we think very carefully about our audience – who do we want to be reading Politico obsessively for us to make this work as a business?”
The organisation is primarily focusing on identifying a key group of influential figures in politics who “feel like they’re getting some insider juice from Politico” across its different mediums: in print, on the website and through the morning newsletters.
“If we can hook those people, then we can build a much larger audience and more importantly, a business model around it,” Kaminski said. “For us, the platform is irrelevant.”
Politico has grown from 40 staffers when it launched in the US in 2007 to 400 around the world today and its business model has also become more diverse.
Currently, 72 per cent of Politico Europe’s revenue comes from advertising and events, with the remaining 28 per cent generated by its premium subscription product, Politico Pro.
The subscription-based service became available in Europe in September 2015 and provides detailed coverage and analysis of political events, targeting big companies and government agencies who want the latest news on political moves.
A percentage of Politico Pro content eventually “makes it over the wall” to the wider audience, mostly through the outlet’s flagship Playbook newsletter, which has 43,000 readers in Brussels.
“We are trying to provide an independent perspective, a pan-European view of news for an elite audience.
In Brussels, the outlet competes with organisations such as Bloomberg, Reuters and the Financial Times, but Kaminski said the goal is to “bring a distinctive voice and tell the king of stories that others don’t tell”, through a mix of political scoops, features and investigations.
For example, in November 2015, Politico Europe compiled a list of the 28 people who are influencing and shaping European politics.
While other outlets led with Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, Politico profiled Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, among others, due to his controversial statement on terrorism and immigration.
Web traffic is a more “challenging” aspect for Politico Europe than it is for its US counterpart – the latter gets around 22 million monthly unique visitors, whereas the European audience only reached 1.55 million in December, Kaminski said, citing figures from analytics service Omniture.
“In Europe, we try to show that we reach the people who matter. In Brussels, for each unique visitor we get around six page views, so not only do they come, but they stay, which shows there’s a sort of stickiness to our publication.”
So what’s next for Politico Europe?
Kaminski said the outlet wants to develop a “stronger readership presence” in financial centres such as London and Berlin, an initiative kicked off by the recent launches of two free newsletters, Morning Exchange and Morgen Europa.
It also aims to shift its business model by 2019, with the goal of increasing the revenue obtained from Politico Pro subscriptions to 44 per cent.
“I think we’ve planted our flag in Brussels. To understand what's going in an European model, you have to understand what's happening in other places too, such as Paris and London, and we think there’s an audience there who is interested in this type of coverage," said Kaminski.
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