Politico Meeting Spies Offer Details

Politico‘s new SVP of Advertising and Business Development Peter Cherukuri, comes to the publication with a certain cachet.  Steve Jobs he isn’t.  But in the Washington media bubble, he’s considered a big deal. No doubt there’s pressure on him as Politico is banking on the hope that HuffPost‘s loss is their gain.

Sources inside Politico who attended recent staff meetings in the past few weeks let us in on details of the publication’s expansion plans. Meetings lasted up to 90 minutes. To avoid getting the bosses angry, most spoke on condition of anonymity.

In the meetings, sources told us, Executive Editor Jim VandeHei and Editor-in-Chief John Harris told staff the company will soon have more than 100 business employees, up from 15 or so six years ago. VandeHei said the company is better positioned than ever, and that National Journal, Roll Call and the WaPo are in a weaker position than they were a few years back.  “They have made a lot of strategic mistakes. We have not,” he told one gathering of staff, a participant said. He told one meeting that anyone who is not nervous about the next few years in media is a “fool,” but that Politico is uniquely positioned to emerge even stronger because it has diversified into subscriptions, jobs and events over the past few years.  In another meeting, columnist Roger Simon asked about profitability. Harris told the audience that even in a tough year for Washington media, revenue is rising every year and that the company has funded every new investment with operating income and “no debt.”
We followed up with Simon post meeting and asked if he posed the question because he’s worried about Politico‘s profitability. He replied, “Not worried in the least. Just a routine question.”
Other meeting details:
*Despite our request that reporters live blog the meetings, Harris told staff not to do it.
*A lot of tense discussion about internal newsroom conflict between Politico and Politico Pro. One Pro reporter, Steve Freiss, apparently asked pointed questions about hostility and insulting condescension by main siters towards Pro reporters. He said while Pro reporters frequently pass tips and ideas to Main, it happens much more rarely in the other direction. Harris pretty defensively said its a priority to have one newsroom on one team. Freiss declined to comment.
*Talk of Politico TV arose. They said they expected a bigger video presence by now, but so be it. Someone joked about letting cute kittens loose in the newsroom, which prompted Harris to playfully poke at BuzzFeed.
*They don’t foresee a paywall model.
*Asked about other locales for Politico, they said they considered Brussels, but no.
Moving on, staff pressed VandeHarris on whether there have been or will be layoffs. Harris said while others in the industry are laying people off, the company will be adding 30 positions – including, it turns out, the “big get” of Cherukuri.