As Politico expands to NYC, will media elite care?

Dylan Stableford
The Cutline

Politico celebrated its fifth anniversary on Monday with an announcement that it is expanding its free print distribution to New York. The publication is giving away roughly 4,000 copies of its daily print edition to "business leaders affected by the daily debate in Washington," according to a press release. In other words, Politico is targeting "thought leaders"--which, according to self-important New Yorkers working in the "media capitol of the world," means everybody.

"Politico, at its essence, is built on hiring the most talented reporters to dig up news and provide analysis that is authentically essential to most important people in government, politics, the media and business," executive editor Jim VandeHei wrote in an email to Yahoo News. "Because we deliver on our end of the bargain, advertisers see us as the best way to get a message, usually one of advocacy or image-shaping, in front of these highly influential readers in web, paper and mobile ads. The financial, business and media leaders of New York are very much part of our core readership and market."

Of course, this isn't a novel idea, particularly in D.C. Plenty of publications--like The Week and The Economist--target influentials in Washington, New York and elsewhere with free, targeted distribution. And Politico already does this in D.C., hand-delivering more than 25,000 copies to Congress, Supreme Court, the Pentagon, all of the federal agencies and the White House. (Why wait for, say, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to request a subscription to your magazine when his getting and reading it is much more valuable to advertisers?)  Another 7,000 copies are available via 164 news boxes and Starbucks locations in and around Capitol Hill. (Politico already has a premium product, Politico Pro, for hardcore readers willing to pay $2,495 a year for "rapid-fire reporting on the politics of energy, technology and health care.")Politico's distribution in Gotham will be similar to how it divvies the copies up inside the Beltway: initially, the paper will be sent to 900 individually-addressed financial executives, media professionals and select ad execs; 800 copies will be distributed more to than a dozen influential companies; and 2,400 copies will be available at 24 vending boxes spread throughout Manhattan.

For advertisers and lobbyists looking for a wider reach, the proposition is a no-brainer. But aside from Donald Trump--who loves reading print (including Yahoo's printer-friendly edition!) particularly when it's about him--which influential New Yorkers are going to read it, especially when an estimated 8 million people per month have been conditioned to get Politico online?

VandeHei, though, says there is still a demand for print, whether we like it or not. "The truth is a lot of readers, especially those older than me (40), still prefer reading the paper in addition to the Web," he told Capital New York. "We are meeting a demand." For advertisers, he said, reaching the New York elite "is a nice side benefit."

Some observers, though, are not so sure. "Politico doesn't get geography of media elite," Dan Gross, Yahoo's finance editor, wrote on Twitter. "List of NY newspaper boxes includes none in Brooklyn. Or Westport, Ct." Or Montclair, N.J., for that matter.

"Oh great," Tony Ortega, editor-in-chief of the Village Voice, told Yahoo News. "Another thing mailed to me that I didn't ask for. It will get read as much as the others are." (It's worth noting that some of Politico's boxes are located adjacent to the Voice's.)

VandeHei added that there are no plans at this point to expand distribution beyond D.C. and New York.

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