Politico Is Making Money With Subscriptions

The site's sub service boasts a 96% renewal rate

In an era where it has been difficult to get anyone to pay for quality reporting, Politico is finding ways to make some cash.

Eighteen months ago, Politico went out on a limb with the launch of Politico Pro, a hyper-focused subscription service covering the wonky inner workings of politics sectors like energy, technology and healthcare. Today, it is confident its 'Pro' experiment has worked. According to Politico's chief revenue officer, Roy Schwartz, the Arlington, Va.-based political news organization has seen a 96 percent renewal rate for their Pro subscriptions after its first year of service, a figure Politico shared exclusively with Adweek.

"A number like this is unheard of in this space," Schwartz said.  "We've had people who used to work at other premium subscription publications who were very surprised at these numbers." Schwartz is referring to competitors like Bloomberg Government and the National Journal's membership subscription service. Schwartz, however, was hesitant to list the companies as competitors, yet both Bloomberg and the National Journal were cited in Politico Pro's announcement press release back in November 2010 as rapidly growing Washington news organizations. Adweek reached out to Bloomberg Government, which did not offer numbers on their subscription renewal rates.

For Politico Pro, subscriptions don't come cheap. Just five licenses cost $8,500, and they're usually purchased by government organizations and lobbying shops looking for real-time coverage and laser focus of the politics of their industries. Along with the high price tag, Politico Pro also attracts thought leadership ad buys with corporate and advocacy groups looking to target their message at movers in the space.

Politico Pro's high renewal numbers are key for the service to continue expanding; the company announced earlier this month that it will launch defense and finance verticals this September. While Politico would release its Pro subscription numbers, the company noted that its morning email newsletters for each vertical have helped aid subscription sign-ups. All of its newsletters (which are free to the public) have over 8,500 subscribers. Morning Money, the finance newsletter led by veteran Wall Street reporter, Ben White, has around 20,000 subscribers, which no doubt aided in the decision to create a finance vertical for Pro.  "It is a hugely competitive space, but in terms of the connection of Washington to Wall Street, nobody has done it perfectly yet," said White.

Yet, while Politico will be beefing up their coverage as it relates to finance and Wall Street, don't expect any immediate New York bureau. "A lot of them are going to be here in D.C.," Schwartz said of the prospective finance staff hires. "They'll be covering the politics side of this and will need to be in Washington."

Looking toward the future, Schwartz noted that the focus will be on adding talent, and the company is already plotting its next moves. "We've already identified several additional verticals for 2013," Schwartz said. "It helps with our core product and core advertising revenue and allows us to continue to improve and cover more online as well."