CQ-Roll Call CEO Visits Washington, Tense Meetings Ensue

The Economist Group’s CEO Andrew Rashbass, who runs both CQ and Roll Call, was in Washington, D.C. Wednesday from London. FishbowlDC has learned of tense meetings he has held with sales staff as of late in which ultimatums were issued and frustrations expressed. Sales staff discussed with him what could be done to combat other Hill publications — the big problem being Politico.

In one meeting, staff was told the results of a private survey they commissioned. The conclusions: The Hill was “the easiest sales team to work with” and Politico offered the “best product.” Sources tell FishbowlDC, “It left the sales team demoralized.”

Roll Call sales employees said they need “more guns” to compete with Politico, including marketing help. Rashbass allegedly turned them down. Sources say he warned them “they have until the end of the fiscal year [which for them is the end of March] to hit their goals or find new work.”

The Economist Group’s public relations department in London did not return requests for comment.

It’s no secret that Roll Call is the old bull of newspapers on Capitol Hill and has dominated issue advocacy ad sales for many years. But last year, that changed when Politico became the clear ad leader, “beating Roll Call most weeks, often decisively,” an industry insider explained. The source said “Politico often gets more ads than Roll Call and The Hill combined now. Online, Politico crushes Roll Call. This has caused deep unease inside Roll Call, which is cutting rates and targeting Politico advertisers with little success. An industry source says, “Roll Call‘s sales team complains Politico is too aggressive – and has been told to get off their butts and step up their game.”

Politico recently hired away Roll Call’s head of classified, and is said to be talking to other top business officials at Roll Call.