Since Economist Group properties CQ and Roll Call merged in November 2012, slashing staff and tearing down its online paywall, RollCall.com claims a 67 percent increase in unique visitors. Now, with its print advertising shrinking, the new CQ Roll Call is trying to continue to up its digital game by launching five political blogs, each attached to one of the newspaper’s big-name contributors.
There’s David M. Drucker’s Goppers, which focuses on the House GOP leadership (his first post will be a Q&A with Speaker of the House John Boehner), and Stu Rothenberg’s congressional campaign blog, Rothenblog. Longtime Roll Call columnist Mort Kondracke will pen Pennsylvania Avenue, a blog about the policy train between the White House and Congress, while David Hawkings’ blog, Hawkings Here, focuses on the relationship between Capitol Hill and White House leadership. Taegan Goddard's Wonk Wire provides an overview of public policy news across the nation. All will be contribute to the site daily while continuing to write for the weekday newspaper.
“I had an express mandate to develop a digital-first strategy for Roll Call,” said editor in chief David Rapp, who joined in November. “The first wave [of the strategy] is really built around these strong personalities who have developed and built a following.” According to Rapp, the writers have been embracing their new roles: Drucker, already a strong Twitter presence, has been schooling the Roll Call staff on effectively using the social networking platform, Rapp said, while Kondracke has been announcing around town, “I’m going to be a blogger!”
With print media trending down, the blogs are meant to drive traffic and provide a platform for sponsorships, said CQ Roll Call’s senior vp, publisher Beth Bronder. “We’re finding that advertisers want exclusivity rather than same old banner or interstitial ads, and they want branding opportunities,” Bronder said. Bronder and Rapp also see opportunities for the blogs’ content to be picked up by outside aggregators, like RealClearPolitics.
Despite the focus on Roll Call’s digital expansion, Rapp said that the print publication will still remain a top priority. “I think there’s a role for both the web and the paper based on how people consume information for each,” he said. “Members of Congress read paper, but their staffers are reading us online.”
Next up, Rapp said that readers can expect to see a full site redesign with new blogs on the Senate, money and politics, plus a Roll Call After Dark blog with listings for restaurants, lectures, movies and other cultural activities.