Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen have finally unveiled their new media venture’s name — and its grand plan.
First of all, the Politico duo’s soon-to-launch company is called “Axios,” which means “worthy” in Greek. Axios has a pretty brief mission statement: “Media is broken — and too often a scam,” per a Hive interview with VanderHei.
The Politico co-founder has reportedly further described his new offering in pitches to potential investors as if “[The] Economist mated with Twitter” and “smartly narrated all the good stuff its own reporters missed.”
VanderHei wants Axios to focus on business, technology, politics and media trends through hiring people “who are authentically wired and smart in those topic areas,” per his Hive conversation.
He and Allen, the latter of which was the founder of Politico’s Playbook newsletter and who is pictured above, got $10 million in financing this summer, led by Huffington Post and BuzzFeed backers, Lerer Hippeau Ventures.
Speaking of newsletters, the guys have already hired Dan Primack, who authored the daily Term Sheet newsletter for Fortune. Axios currently has 27 employees, and hopes for 50 by its late-January launch.
But how will Axios stand out amid the clutter? Well, VanderHei sees opportunity between two imperfect existing media models.
First, there are old media publications like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, which are too married to their own outdated tech and legacy customers to thrive.
They “are reliant on a type of advertising that you know is going to die, but you can’t leave it because it’s short-term revenue,” VanderHei said. “They are in a very difficult and painful transition. The reality of it is just setting in, and the amount of upheaval is going to be profound, and it drains not just resources but emotions and enthusiasm.”
Then there’s new media, which too often employs a strategy that VanderHei describes as: “Just give me a lot of traffic, I swear to God I will find a business model.”
The problem with that approach is it allows copycats to oversaturate the market, driving advertising prices way down for everyone. VanderHei sees this happening all over the internet. He calls it the “crap trap.”
To make their own money, VanderHei hopes Axios will eventually earn half of its revenue through subscriptions — though there won’t be a paywall on Day 1. He promises a few more tricks up his sleeve, but some secrets are currently being kept under wraps.