CQ, Roll Call Advance Towards Merger

Onetime rivals planning joint publications

The Washington, D.C., media market continues to churn as onetime rivals CQ and Roll Call take steps toward a merger of their two Capital Hill publications.

The process was set in motion in 2009, when The Economist Group bought CQ and merged it with its own Roll Call, combining the newsrooms and cutting 44 editorial jobs in the process. At the time, management said it would maintain two separate print publications.

But it won't be that way for long. Both staffs have been contributing to each other's publications and putting out jointly branded pubs, Outlook and CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing. In March 2011, the two news staffs, which together number more than 200 reporters and editors, moved in under the same roof.

Plans are in the works to produce combined daily publications at the Republican and Democratic conventions. And the online sites of CQ and Roll Call will merge, most likely in the fall, said Peter Anthony, svp and group publisher of the CQ Roll Call group.

Now, confirming long-held assumptions, an all-out mashup of the print dailies is in the works. Company execs were short on details and timeframe, but they insisted that the CQ banner wouldn't go away.

“[A merger] is something that's under serious consideration and something we're looking at," Anthony said. "There's a lot of synergy that are shared between both products."

The D.C. media market on the whole is undergoing huge changes, with existing players upping their game and global players swooping in, all of them seeing a big opportunity to cover the workings of a growing federal government and sell detailed information about its movements.

CQ Roll Call already has its own CQ-branded expensive legislative tracking service, which Anthony said would stay as is. Two years before that merger, Politico burst on the scene and has since launched a paid subscription service, Politico Pro. Bloomberg LP came along in 2010 and launched Bgov, a subscription-based news and information product, poaching a number of CQ staffers in the process. And Atlantic Media's National Journal Group has expanded its own subscription service.

Anthony said while there would be cost savings from merging the print publications, he said cutting expenses wasn’t the main motive and that he didn’t expect there to be layoffs. Rather, the company was responding to readers' desire to get CQ's wonky policy coverage along with Roll Call's political news in one package. "It's really user-driven,” he said. “It’s driven by active legislative CQ users who still want political coverage. There’s always been the need to blend the content of the two products.”