November 20, 2013
Politico's Mike Allen, left, interviews Timothy Geithner. (Mandel Ngan/Getty Images)
Politico’s Mike Allen, left, interviews Timothy Geithner. (Mandel Ngan/Getty Images)

A while back, the Erik Wemple Blog argued that Politico’s “Playbook,” the morning newsletter authored by the famously workaholic reporter Mike Allen, prospered in a unique Beltway seedbed: Lots of issue-advocacy dollars, a mono-culture economy in Washington and a clubby audience. No way could this model be transported elsewhere.

The hell it can’t!

In an announcement that surfaced in this morning’s “Playbook,” the Rosslyn-based newsroom will port Allen’s prototype to its recently acquired news property, Capital New York. Here’s the announcement:

“[Tomorrow,] Capital will debut ‘Capital Playbook,’ a free, early-morning newsletter modeled after … POLITICO Playbook. It will be written by Capital reporters Azi Paybarah and Jimmy Vielkind with POLITICO’s Mike Allen. The National Retail Federation has signed on as the launch sponsor of Capital Playbook and exclusive advertiser for the rest of 2013.” Sign up here for Capital Playbook. http://goo.gl/088UNN

Just what role will Allen himself play in this venture? The Erik Wemple Blog reached out to Politico CEO Jim VandeHei, but he declined an interview.

In any case, the move to expand the Mike Allen Brand makes a lot of sense. The National Retail Federation has previously advertised in the Beltway version of “Playbook.” What sort of deal the Politico brain trust cut with the National Retail Federation for about seven weeks of ads in “Capital Playbook” is unclear. Perhaps it’ll help bring on board other national issue advertisers for “Capital Playbook,” though the stakes for influencing political decisions in any state — even New York — are considerably smaller than they are for the federal government.

Politico made a number of other announcements about its activities in New York: It will relaunch Capital New York on Dec. 3, with more journalistic firepower channeled toward New York City Hall, Albany and the media. “New York has a hunger for better coverage,” said VandeHei, also Capital New York CEO, in the “Playbook” announcement. “We have hired some of the best journalists in the industry to disrupt the competition and deliver essential coverage to the most powerful people in the state.”

Veteran New York journos may scoff at such bravado and point to the already crazed media competition in the Big Apple, but remember: Similar scoffing also greeted Politico’s 2007 debut in Washington.

Politico started as a free site and later launched a subscription service, Politico Pro; Capital New York, according to the “Playbook” announcement, “will maintain a robust free site, but the majority of Capital coverage will be exclusive to Pro subscribers.” Fees for the Pro offerings will kick in early next year.

Those details notwithstanding, the announcement raises an important institutional question for Politico. How spreadable is that Mike Allen jelly? Right now, the guy kicks out a daily newsletter, from which he rarely takes a break. He writes news stories now and then. He anchors all manner of events. He appears regularly on “Morning Joe” and any number of other outlets. He retains the title of chief White House correspondent.

Now he’s expanding to New York. “Chief statehouse correspondent”?

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.