‘These Are Home Runs’: Publishers’ Election Products Drive Business and Audience Goals

Dedicated political news areas help brands stand out as credible information sources

Publishers looking to capitalize on the election released new products. Source: Getty Images, Unsplash

Axios, Politico and Guardian US are among the major publishers capitalizing on growing reader demands for deeper political coverage with a slew of products from podcasts to newsletters aimed at driving and maintaining audience visits ahead of and beyond Election Day 2020.

In addition to satisfying business goals like new ad opportunities, these products may also serve as a chance to “curb the spread of misinformation,” said NYU Stern professor Anindya Ghose. By carving out dedicated publishing space for politics, publishers have a chance to burnish their respective identities as clearly recognizable and accessible sources of credible news.

“This is a great opportunity for premium and high quality publishers to satiate that desire and establish a trust-based relationship with their readers,” Ghose said.

In 2016, many publishers saw the so-called “Trump bump” drive more people than ever to news organizations to read about the then-candidate. Now, as tensions are high, these new products are intended to deepen relationships between publishers and their readers.

“This will offer readers a one-stop shop to find out all facts and figures in real time without worrying about whether this news is bonafide or not. It can go a long way in calming people’s nerves which are at an all time high now,” Ghose said.

Here’s a look at some of the products that five publishers released around Election Day 2020:


In keeping with the newsletter format the media company is known for, Axios released a four-part newsletter series timed to one particular event. Called Axios AM Thought Bubble, the first batch covered the presidential debates beginning on Sept. 29 and running through Oct. 22. Featuring advertisers including Amazon and Koch Industries, that string of newsletters was formatted like others from Axios, featuring “1 big thing” (otherwise known as a takeaway) from the event itself and highlighting notable quotes that were uttered during the face-off.

The sponsorship of the first edition of the newsletter sold within 30 minutes, the publisher said. 

Axios landed on the format after editors brainstormed what information readers would find “more useful” and could repackage content it was already producing, said editor in chief Nicholas Johnston.

“It works from an audience standpoint; it works from a business standpoint. These are home runs,” Johnston said. Axios said its morning newsletter, called Axios AM, is sent to 600,000 subscribers, and while it wouldn’t give exact open rates for the Thought Bubble series, a spokesperson pointed to the Axios AM’s average 36% open rate. For comparison, the industry average for the media, entertainment and publishing sector newsletter open rate is 18.1%, per Sailthru.


In the lead-up to the election, Politico created a new weekly newsletter called Transition Playbook detailing the transition of power between White House administrations. Though launched in mid-October, the newsletter offered key scoops for Washington insiders that served as “catnip” for the publisher’s “key audience,” said Politico editor in chief Matt Kaminski.

The popularity of certain news items—such as rumors about Bernie Sanders angling for the Labor Secretary post in a possible Biden administration—helped grow the newsletter. Post-election, it will turn from a weekly newsletter into a daily. In all, non-paid marketing efforts are credited with helping the newsletter attract more than 10,000 subscribers in 10 days.

“No publication is more indispensable to the audience of political influencers than we are. Playbook is the way we reach them first thing in the morning and at points during the day,” Kaminski said.

@SaraJerde sara.jerde@adweek.com Sara Jerde is publishing editor at Adweek, where she covers traditional and digital publishers’ business models. She also oversees political coverage ahead of the 2020 election.