Robert Allbritton on the Business of Providing ‘Essential Information’

Capitol News Company head honcho chats with his Alma Mater.

In Part 1 of a two-part series with Wesleyan University’s student newspaper the Argus, Politico underwriter and Class of 1992 graduate Robert Allbritton shares some interesting observations about the current state of journalism.

He explains how the pursuit of Web traffic goals for big sites never stops. Allbritton also says that Politico earns half its revenues from high-end subscribers (political and policy professionals, via a dozen and a half specialized publications) and that this plugs into a broader and more important journalism fact:

“The reality of it is the 1 percent of readers pays for the other 99 percent of journalism that is out there. You’re putting out articles that do have an impact on the country and on the world. That kind of progressive tax system of journalism works. Where I’ve seen a lot of other theories say, we will do a non-profit where people will pay ten cents to read an article and I say, ‘Are you kidding me? No one’s going to do that.’ If you’re looking for a charity, you’re only as good as your last round of donations.”

“That’s not a way to have professional careers created. It’s so fundamentally unstable. And that’s what I keep preaching to our guys. ‘Look, we want to do good journalism, but it’s gotta be sustainable. There’s gotta be a business behind it where this is a return, or otherwise, Why are people doing this?'”

Allbritton admits the Politico model of targeting the thousands of readers who matter most makes it a little tougher to hire journalists. Why? Because they have to buy into the idea of their work not necessarily being widely available. Part 2 of Wesleyan Argus features editor Aaron Stagoff-Belfort’s conversation with Allbritton will publish Friday.

Image courtesy: Politico