Politico publisher acquires Capital New York (UPDATED)

Over 30 to 45 days the website will quadruple staff and hone coverage on state and local politics, according to Jim VandeHei

[UPDATE, 4:06 pm]

Jim VandeHei, executive editor of Politico and new president of Capital New York, says the site will quadruple staff—hiring about two dozen reporters over the next 30 to 45 days—and cut its coverage of sports and culture, focusing on city hall and state politics for a more “intensive approach.” They also plan on installing reporters in Albany, to cover state politics.

“I’m skeptical of general interest publications to be able to break through and get a sophisticated reader to check in every day,” said VandeHei.

But Capital New York’s general interest slant will eventually allow for more expansive reportage: “We like the breadth of the name, because it doesn’t just limit us like the Politico name,” he said, adding that he hopes to expand the site into reporting on business, media, and culture after the initial relaunch.

“I’m a big believer that a big difference maker in journalism is the talent,” said VandeHei, who cited editors Josh Benson and Tom McGeveran as the reason the brand refrained from installing a ‘Politico New York,’ even though “it’s easier and cheaper to build it ourselves.” Benson and McGeveran will continue to run the site’s daily operations.

“For us this was the perfect laboratory for testing the theories that we’ve learned about Politico in a different place,” said VandeHei.

For now, the digital brand isn’t thinking beyond Manhattan, but if their methods transfer, “any wise business man or woman would probably look around to see if there’s another place to apply the model,” said VandeHei.

[Original story, 11:40 am]

Politico may already own nitty-gritty coverage of beltway politics, but the political website is making moves to capture the Big Apple, after its publisher announced the acquisition of Capital New York, a website covering “the people and institutions that make New York work,” this morning.

The digital mammoth plans to apply its trademark revenue blend of ads and subscriptions to the New York-based startup, launching a revamped version (in the image of Politico) later this fall.

The sale went through last week, but Politico publisher Robert Allbritton announced the purchase this morning, with a letter to staff published on Politico’s website. “I have very big ambitions for this publication: to do in New York what we did in Washington with Politico,” wrote Allbritton. He plans to make Capital New York a Politico “sister site,” targeting “a sophisticated insider audience of New York’s most powerful.”

Not surprisingly, Politico has the scoop on the sale this morning, reporting that the redesign will include a hiring spree (apply at jobs@capitalnewyork.com) and a narrowed vision:

Allbritton is planning to hire more than two dozen people in the coming weeks — Capital currently has eight employees, including a managing editor and four full-time reporters — and to relaunch the website in the fall.
With reporters deployed across Manhattan’s power centers as well as up in Albany, Capital will now go head-to-head with The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the New York City tabloids. Whether it can succeed in such a saturated market is an open question.
In a statement, VandeHei said the goal is to make Capital “the essential news source for and about the most powerful people in New York — the officials who run government, politics, business and media.”

Capital New York was founded by New York Observer veterans Josh Benson and Tom McGeveran as a digital startup taking an insider look at New York City. (Their slogan: “This is how New York works.”)

“We’re delighted to have this opportunity to expand on what we’ve done and become a primary news source in our areas of coverage,” Benson said in a release this morning. “It’s a massive thing for us, obviously, to be able to draw on the expertise and financial backing of Robert Allbritton.”

In an open letter to readers, the founders announced that the financial backing is a game changer for the small publication. “What the new investment does, for one thing, is to put this publication on a stable financial footing, ensuring our ability to deliver quality local coverage over the long term,” they wrote.

Though Benson and McGeveran will continue to run Capital New York’s daily operations, Albritton has named Jim VandeHei, Politico co-founder and executive editor, president of the site.

This acquisition comes on the heels of more expansion for Politico; the publication has announced plans to create a magazine and launch three new verticals covering trade, agriculture and education.

Capital New York will be sharing updates on its absorption into the mothership on its Twitter account.

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Alexis Sobel Fitts is a senior writer at CJR. Follow her on Twitter at @fittsofalexis. Tags: , ,