Politico’s Allbritton Buys Capital New York

To expand subscription model to online news pub

The subscription approach to news is getting a significant boost, with Politico owner Robert Allbritton buying Capital New York with an eye on applying Politico’s business model to the online news site. Allbritton plans to hire more than 24 people and relaunch the site, which was founded in 2010 by ex-New York Observer editors Josh Benson and Tom McGeveran, who will continue to run the news operation.

As news organizations struggle to figure out a profitable business model, Politico has been notable for its 2-year-old paid subscription service, Politico Pro. In a world where free content abounds, the D.C.-based organization recently claimed to have more than 1,000 organizations as members (at the hefty cost of $8,500 a year for a group plan), and that 96 percent of subscribers are renewing. The new revenue stream has allowed the service has expanded beyond its political bread and butter news and information aimed at lobbyists and trade orgs to energy, tech and health care. To drive subscription growth, Politico is planning to launch a quarterly print magazine featuring past coverage, to be distributed free in the Beltway.

Allbritton’s plan is to target influential readers with increased coverage of New York’s media, culture, business and politics. 

“I have very big ambitions for Capital: to do in New York what we did in Washington with Politico,” Allbritton said in a statement announcing today's deal. “I believe powerfully that nonpartisan publications with an intense focus on a specific set of topics can break though quickly, editorially and financially. I’m excited to take the impressive work Benson and McGeveran did with Capital to the next level.”

The big question is whether the Politico approach can succeed in the intensly competitive New York market, which is dominated by print stalwarts like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and the tabloids.

The news comes as the New York media market has been heating up a bit lately, at least digitally. The New York Post unwrapped a long-awaited relaunch of its website with an influx of new staffers with experience at Time Inc., The Wall Street Journal, Gawker and others; while the Daily News is seeking to expand its national footprint online with a new site, Daily News America. 

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