Melinda Henneberger admits that her friends and colleagues were skeptical when she announced that she’d be heading up PoliticsDaily.com, AOL’s political newsmag website. But that skepticism has simmered now 6 months after launch and with bragging rights to roughly 6 million unique monthly visitors.
Henneberger, the site’s editor-in-chief credits the success of PoliticsDaily to several factors:
Editorial Freedom: The New York Times alum says that AOL has been very active in supporting the site but has remained hands-off when it comes to editorial decisions. “They’ve [AOL] never forced or asked us to change anything editorially. They trust our instincts and experience,” she said.
Captive Audience: There is an existing “fire hose of readers that pour in from AOL’s homepage,” Henneberger told FishbowlDC. And while that is true, each month a significantly greater number of visitors are directed to PoliticsDaily by other referrers. “We also understand that not all clicks are created equally.”
Back to the Future: Henneberger says that PD’s approach to journalism is “so old fashioned that it’s new.” She explained that the way to succeed is to “pay for quality” and to remain bipartisan as an organization. “You really don’t have to swing one way or another to pull readers. We believe in giving both sides a voice.”
So, where does PoliticsDaily.com fit into the increasingly competitive market of web-based political journalism? Henneberger says they’re more of a compliment than competitor to sites like Politico.com.
“Politico dominates the 10 second news cycle but we’re more analytical,” Henneberger told us. “We’re really serving readers outside of Washington while earning our cred inside the beltway.”
PoliticsDaily currently employs a staff of twelve full-time and taps more than twelve additional contributors. But even with two dozen + journalists fueling their site, don’t expect them to open an office anytime soon…or ever. Hennberger proudly explained that AOL offered to get her team space in the city but she declined:
“I’d rather spend money on more reporting than rent, desks and chairs.”