By Leena Rao
AOL’s new political news and blog site, PoliticsDaily.com has surpassed rival Politico.com in unique visits in May, after being launched only a month and a half ago. According to May’s comScore results, PoliticsDaily.com received 2.4 million unique visitors compared to 1.1 million unique visitors on Politico.com in May. PoliticsDaily, a “news magazine” site which primarily focuses on in-depth political commentary as opposed to breaking news, provides only original content, from long-form analysis to blog posts on issues in the U.S. political landscape. You can read our original review of PoliticsDaily here.
This is a big deal for AOL and representative of the company’s ambitions to become a dominant player in the online content space. PoliticsDaily is the brainchild of Martin Moe, senior vice president at AOL and is built under Bill Wilson’s new MediaGlow division, which is building new content brands distinct from AOL itself. MediaGlow, which recently launched topic directory Love.com, runs AOL News, Engadget and TMZ.com, among other properties.
AOL may be on to something. MediaGlow reports that sites as a whole, rose 5% year over year, with unique visitors climbing hitting 76.3 million, according to May’s comScore data. AOL’s Technology Network – which includes Engadget, , Switched, DownloadSquad, and others, saw the most growth out of all the MediaGlow networks, seeing 35 percent growth in year over year.
As TechCrunch Editor Michael Arrington wrote earlier this month, the MediaGlow team is looking to pick up the remnants of the dying print magazine business and digitize this content. With the print business in shambles, a lot of high quality talent is suddenly willing to take a job in online, even at a much lower salary. And AOL has some cash from the dialup business.
High quality talent may be what is helping PoliticsDaily stay competitive in a crowded field. Wilson credits editor and former New York Times Washington Correspondent, Melinda Henneberger’s leadership and “dream team” as the primary reason for the site’s rapid growth. PoliticsDaily launched with a venerable list of experienced political reporters from both new and old media, including Walter Shapiro, former columnist for USA Today and former Washington bureau chief for Salon; Jill Lawrence, former national political correspondent for USA Today and columnist for the Associated Press; Carl Cannon, former Washington bureau chief for Reader’s Digest and White House correspondent for the National Journal and the Baltimore Sun; and others.
Of course there are still other political news-driven sites that are getting more unique visits than PoliticsDaily— The Huffington Post saw 5.3 million unique visits in May, over twice the amount of traffic than PoliticsDaily. But HuffPo’s a content aggregator and PoliticsDaily is focused more on long-form original content. And it seems that PoliticsDaily is still growing and may be a model for where magazines should head in the future.
In the grand scheme of things, AOL’s strategy towards monetizing niche content online seems to be working out. And since they’ve already got the publishing platform with MediaGlow, new brands can be inserted or built at little marginal operating cost. If the brand tanks, which is likely to happen at some point, then AOL isn’t losing too much. It will be interesting to see what digital content brands AOL unveil next. Wilson says that MediaGlow will be launching several sites in the near future, but declined to give specifics. Perhaps they’ll reinvent some of the dying magazine brands at former parent company Time Inc.?