Politico Names Mike Allen’s Replacements on Playbook

“The inheritors of this wonderful franchise created more than nine years ago by the incomparable Mike Allen are two of our newsroom’s very best,” site’s editor-in-chief says

Last Updated: June 20, 2016 @ 8:55 AM

Politico chief White House correspondent Mike Allen will hand off oversight of the political site’s Playbook to staff writers Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman on July 11.

The move has been the subject of speculation for weeks, with Allen having announced his pending exit in January from the indispensable Beltway newsletter he created.

“We have found the team who is ready for this job. The inheritors of this wonderful franchise created more than nine years ago by the incomparable Mike Allen are two of our newsroom’s very best, Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman,” Politico editor-in-chief John Harris told staffers in a memo.

Harris said the upcoming election helped speed up his decision.

“With the presumptive nominees already settled, and a transition that will start the morning after the election — I made a judgment that we should let this team get to work sooner rather than later,” he wrote.

That team will now be led by senior White House correspondent Palmer and staff writer Sherman. Along with Allen, CEO Jim VandeHei, COO Kim Kingsley and two other top executives announced earlier this year that they were leaving Politico.

Replacing Allen won’t be easy. He’s is described as an insomniac workaholic who shapes the political media conversation on a daily basis.

Politico’s co-founding editor John F. Harris once called Allen the publication’s “founding father” and his Playbook newsletter has over 100,000 subscribers. Allen was an early hire when Harris, VandeHei and owner Robert Allbritton launched the company in 2007, and has been dominating morning political content ever since.

“Playbook is one of the best jobs in Washington, a direct pipeline to more than 100,000 of the world’s most influential people every morning,” Politico spokesperson Brad Dayspring told TheWrap in April.

There’s a lot at stake for Allbritton. Playbook brings in roughly $3 million in advertising per year, according to two executives familiar with advertising rates. That number grows significantly when you factor in the Playbook Event Series, which is sponsored by Bank of America.

Check out the entire memo that Harris sent to his staff:

Team,

At the start of the year, it was evident that one of the publication’s big tasks for 2016 would be to identify and help launch the next generation of POLITICO Playbook.

We have found the team who is ready for this job. The inheritors of this wonderful franchise created more than nine years ago by the incomparable Mike Allen are two of our newsroom’s very best, Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman.

Their rise into this job is a terrific POLITICO story, since these two friends and collaborators effectively grew up together, in a professional sense, in our newsroom. They personify values–fierce competitiveness, love of the political game, journalistic integrity–that animate our entire publication. They will be joined by a friendly face, Daniel Lippman, who will be a force multiplier for Jake and Anna just as he was for Mike.  I view the selection of this team as an exhilarating first stride in the next phase of our publication, one that will come fully into bloom this fall with the election of a new president.

Finding the right hands to grab this particular wheel was a tall order, to put it mildly. Playbook is a platform intimately identified with the entire publication, and its author is a singular force in Washington journalism. Mike, my friend of a quarter-century and fellow co-founder, is someone who marries his personal passions–curiosity, a gift for human connection, a zeal to inform, surprise, and delight–with his professional commitments more completely than anyone I’ve ever known.

Because 2017 is practically upon us already — with the presumptive nominees already settled, and a transition that will start the morning after the election–I made a judgment that we should let this team get to work sooner rather than later. This is an extraordinary election and a great opportunity to introduce the Playbook audience to a new team.  Mike and Susan Glasser agreed with my thinking. So did Blake Hounshell, who is taking the lead for the newsroom in managing this transition. We will be looking to July as a month of baton-passing. Jake and Anna, with Daniel, will take over the daily newsletter on July 11. Mike will continue to headline events with them as Playbook founder all through the conventions. After this he will be working with me and Blake as adviser on the Playbook transition and also will be a leading contributor to our general election coverage.

Judging by comments people already have made to me, this move may not be our best-kept secret ever. That’s in part because the logic of Jake and Anna has been obvious from the moment Mike let us know last winter that he was ready for his next chapter. I spoke with many people inside and outside the publication who had ideas about Playbook or wanted to be considered as authors. But my sights never wavered from Anna and Jake. We shared the same vision of Playbook on several key points:

*First was a realization that Playbook, which began connected unmistakably to a single voice, is now a global brand. Playbook has transformed the way in which political and policy news is consumed. It has evolved into a best-in-class suite of newsletters at the national and local levels as well as a platform for live journalism through Playbook events. As you know, Ryan Heath at POLITICO.eu, writes a morning Playbook in Europe that is as indispensable to politicos and policy-makers as Mike is in Washington. In a half-dozen states, authors like Marc Caputo in Florida and Natasha Korecki in Illinois have similarly put themselves–and above all their reporting–at the center of the political conversation. And, of course, Mike’s creation was the template for our influential financial services newsletters, Ben White’s Morning Money out of New York and Francesco Guerrera’s Morning Exchange out of London, as well as for morning newsletters across all our policy verticals. Company-wide, we now greet readers early in the day with essential news in nearly 30 different morning products.

*Different people write in distinctive voices, but there are some unifying themes to our Playbooks that Jake, Anna, and Daniel are deeply invested in. One of the most important is a conviction that Playbook is not simply a news platform but a community. People are the key, and Playbook is a valuable tool for people who wield power, or seek to, or study the ways that others are wielding it. Playbook both reflects the capital’s non-stop conversation and very often drives that conversation.

*Driving the conversation requires one thing above all: Revelation. We must always be telling readers something new, truthful, and relevant. Here is where the case for Anna and Jake was irrefutable. They are a generation younger than POLITICO’s co-founders and their reportorial roots are deep among a rising cohort of people now taking positions of influence throughout the capital. They are respected in both parties, among public leaders and people working behind the scenes of power, as journalists who are unyielding in pursuit of stories. Anna, a North Dakota native and graduate of St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN., joined us in 2011. She has become the most authoritative voice covering Washington’s lobbying and advocacy industry. Jake grew up in Connecticut and graduated from George Washington University. Since Jake joined POLITICO in 2009, nothing has happened–no leadership turmoil, no caucus dispute, no ideological or partisan showdown–in the U.S. House during which his reporting did not lead the pack.

*The nine years of Mike’s Playbook reign have been marked by dramatic changes in how news is consumed and how influential people make news and wage arguments.Thanks to the efforts of folks like Lauren Kaplan, Chris Buddie, and Steve Stiles, the new Playbook will also have a sleek, updated look and feel, with an improved reading experience and cool features like the ability to share entire sections on social media. We’ll also be rolling out a new digital home and new social accounts for Playbook in the weeks to come, taking it from the inbox to anywhere else our readers want to consume it. Thanks in particular to Blake, who understands this evolution in media as well as anyone at POLITICO.

Huge credit also goes to Peter Cherukuri, Alexis Williams, and Kara Kearns and their teams for plunging into mountains of planning associated with this transition.

This is an exciting time to be covering Washington, and between this news and more announcements coming soon this is about to be a very exciting time at POLITICO. I want to thank Robert Allbritton for accepting my recommendation on this important decision on Playbook; Jake, Anna and Daniel for embracing this formidable assignment; and Mike for helping illuminate the right path for all of us at POLITICO in so many ways, as journalist, as co-founder, and as friend.

Onward,

John