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Politico Buys Capital New York, Plans to Expand

Capital New York founder dishes on the deal

Politico publisher Robert Allbritton purchased New York City-centric website Capital New York, the sites announced on Monday, in an effort to create a Politico-like news website in the biggest city in America.

Capital New York site co-founder Tom McGeveran told TheWrap that he and his co-founder Josh Benson are looking forward to what Politico’s investment will allow their site, which focused on NYC’s cultural, political, and media scenes, to do.

“We know the site’s focus will expand, so that will make it different,” McGeveran said. “We’re still working out a lot of that stuff, and also we won’t do everything at once, so some stuff will be weeks or months or years down the line. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.”

The deal means Capital will expand its staff. Politico plans to hire over two dozen journalists in advance of a fall relaunch, which will introduce the Politico-ized site to its NYC audience.

Also read: Todd Purdum Joins Politico as Senior Writer

“I have very big ambitions for Capital: to do in New York what we did in Washington with Politico,” Allbritton said in a statement. “I believe powerfully that nonpartisan publications with an intense focus on a specific set of topics can break though quickly, editorially and financially. I’m excited to take the impressive work Benson and McGeveran did with Capital to the next level.”

Politico’s executive editor and co-founder Jim VandeHei will serve as the site’s president.

“Our goal is to make Capital the essential news source for and about the most powerful people in New York – the officials who run government, politics, business and media,” he said in a statement. “We will provide the fastest, clearest, most essential reporting on these topics alone. We are confident we will do that. If we do, the readers will come – and the ads and subscriptions will follow.”

Those ads and subscriptions will be important; Capital New York hasn’t had the smoothest road financially since it opened in 2010 as an alternative to the New York Observer, where McGeveran and Benson had previously worked. It had a small core staff and several freelancers, which served up knowledgeable slices of New York City life but could never cover the entirety of their beats. Politico’s added manpower could turn the site into a viable New York Times competitor, much the same way it has owned part of Washington Post’s beat. NYT columnist Ross Douthat recently blamed Politico for the downfall of the Washington Post. Now he might watch the same thing happen to his paper.

Also read: Politico Expands Print Distribution to New York

McGeveran said that he and Benson “have both known Jim VandeHei and John Harris for some years now and when we saw the news that they were investing in digital media properties we reached out. The prospect of a deal with Politico quickly dominated because they have not just a theory but a track record of finding ways to support the news financially; on our own, we would have tried to follow a lot of their principles.”

While Capital New York’s founders will retain editorial control of the site, McGeveran said they’re happy to relinquish their other roles as the site’s “salesmen, HR and benefits administrators, accountants, lawyers, IT guys, fax repairmen, designers … Thankfully we’re going to be getting people much more talented than ourselves in those roles to come work on the site.”