The Politico, a new weekly newspaper that will provide in-depth coverage of the political/lobbying scene, launched yesterday to modest fanfare

Interestingly, The Politico will take a sort of hybrid approach to distributing its content.  They don't seem to be aiming to attract a large print circulation.  They will distribute around 25,000 print copies of the weekly paper to various DC types at $3.50 a pop (I've got a copy of the first issue here).  Presumably, the print edition will feature long form, deep dive type of stories (it does so far).

But most folks will read the paper through its website,  The website appears to feature most of the content from the print edition, as well as timely, breaking news and a variety of blogs.  This strategy seems right to me.

Anyway, here's a breakdown of the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of The Politico's website.

The Good

  • The newspaper aims for a more conversational writing style than you traditionally see from journalists.  From my reading of the first issue, they've done a pretty good job of it.  Here's what they have to say about it:

    "Reading a story should be just as interesting as talking with a reporter over a sandwich or a beer.  It is a curiosity of journalism that this often isn't true.  The traditional newspaper story is written with austere, voice-of-God detachment.  These newspaper conventions tend to muffle personality, humor, accumulated insight – all the things readers hunger for as they try to make sense of the news and understand what politicians are really like.  Whenever we can, we'll push against these limits."


  • The website will feature a section called Speak to Power.  Basically, registered users will be able to submit editorials through the website.  Users will then be able to vote on their favorite pieces and the nine editorials that receive the most votes will be published in the print edition.  Great idea.

    On the negative side, I don't really like the design of this section.  I wish they had gone with the proven Reddit and Digg model here.   Also, Capitol Hill staffers and other DC-types are going to become obsessed with gaming this (see what they've tried to do with Wikipedia).  Still, just a great idea and it will be fun to watch.

  • A feature called You Report will allow users to submit their own stories (not editorials) to The Politico.  The Politico will review each article that is submitted and publish articles that meet their "journalistic standards" in the paper itself.  If your story is published, they'll pay you $100.  It also looks like you'll be able to review all of these articles unfiltered.  Doesn't look like anyone has submitted anything yet (maybe I'll be the first).  Once again, great idea.
  • Registered uses of the site can post their thoughts and comments on every single article (be interested to see if reporters participate in these comment threads).  And each story also has a permalink and a little Digg This icon.  You can also read all stories without registering.  Cool. 
  • The four blogs (Shenanigans, The Crypt, Smith, and Martin) look pretty promising. 

The Bad

  • The site links to external blogs in various spots (blogroll style) but doesn't really integrate third-party content that well.  Why not use that little Technorati API to link to bloggers that are talking about the article you are reading?  Why not allow trackbacks
  • I love that they are making their own videos, but the video section itself needs some help.  The design is not visual enough and the Flash player they are using is bare bones.  At a minimum they should quickly figure out a way to let people embed their videos in their own sites.  Also, how about an RSS feed so I can get these things on my IPod?  They should take a look at what folks like and Brightcove are doing and take notes. 
  • I personally don't like the way the site looks.  It's a day old site and to me the design already looks dated and old.  Uninspired.
  • The site appears to be built in Cold Fusion.  Not the direction I/we would have gone for something like this.
  • There is a hole in the design of the site at the top where I think they are going to cram banner ads.  Yuck.  I'd experiment with contextual ads instead. 

The Ugly

  • Like just about every newspaper site known to man, the search is bare bones and will be pretty much useless once they get a few weeks of content in there.
  • They are not using tags at all or really grouping related content in any useful way, beyond the major sections.  As an example, here's a story on Rudy Giuliani.  On Politico, there really isn't any way to go view other stories about Rudy.  Contrast this with Daylife and Newsvine, which provide nice dynamic summary pages and generally associate similar content well. 

    Newspaper sites really need to do a better job of highlighting older content.

  • As a newspaper that is making a large bet on the web, it seems like they would cover how technology is affecting politics at least a little.  I didn't see a single article about the Internet and politics in the print edition, save for some puff piece about some Hill staffer's college basketball blog. Update: Looks like Micah Sifry from Personal Democracy will be writing a column for Politico. Cool. 

In summary, I like The Politico.  The people behind this are clearly smart folks who understand the pro
blems the newspaper industry is facing.  But at this point in terms of the web, I think at this point the concept is a lot better than the execution.  But it's the first week, so it'll be interesting to see how things develop.

As a side note, I think the print version looks a lot better than the website.  What do you think?

Update: The DCist and David All also have reviews. 

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.