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Clarendon-Based Axios Launches Local Newsletter for D.C.

Promotional material for Axios D.C., a new newsletter covering the D.C. region (courtesy of Axios)

(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) Clarendon-based Axios is growing quickly, in part due to its entry into a shrinking business: local news.

The media company, which covers national news with short, punchy articles, has launched more than a dozen daily city and regional newsletters. One spotlighting the D.C. region debuted this week.

The new venture, Axios Local, aims to “help readers get smarter, faster about their hometowns.”

Following the acquisition of a local news publication in Charlotte, Axios launched six newsletters earlier this year, from Denver to northwest Arkansas. By the end of October, Axios Local will have eight more locally-focused newsletters, including D.C.’s.

Publisher Nick Johnston tells ARLnow that Axios distinguishes itself from other local news outlets by applying its well-known smart brevity style to individual cities and regions.

“We call it ‘smart, lifestyle reporting,’ where you get a lot of hard, scoopy news but you are also writing about the community,” says Johnston. “People care about museums that are opening or cool places to eat or what’s happening with festivals [over] the weekend. Can you combine all of that with a little bit of a local voice? Would readers respond to that? So far, the early response has been great.”

Axios aims to cover a mix of bigger cities, smaller cities, and college towns, he says. The nation’s capital was a natural choice because of its size, audience and endless supply of topics — not to mention the fact that it’s Axios’ home turf.

“D.C. is a big, awesome, dynamic city with a great market,” Johnston says. “Also, an audience that knows us a lot from our political reporting.”

The key is to hire great, in-the-know journalists, notes Johnston.

Axios D.C. is written by Chelsea Cirruzzo, Cuneyt Dil and Paige Hopkins. Both Cirruzzo and Dil have plenty of local bonafides, with Hopkins coming from Charlotte, where the already-popular Charlotte Agenda was rebranded Axios Charlotte after being acquired for a reported $5 million.

The D.C. newsletter will cover the District as well as Arlington, Alexandria and neighboring Maryland counties. Dil tells ARLnow that the newsletter’s goal is to cover the regional conversations that folks are having, not necessarily every city council or county board meeting.

“That [can] be about housing, transportation — Metro is always a regional story,” he said. “Everyone’s interested in what’s going on in terms of lifestyle, food and entertainment-wise in D.C.”

The pandemic revealed the importance of a regional focus, Dil notes, since COVID-19 crosses borders and the impact of policies extends beyond individual jurisdictions. Arlington’s Amazon-fueled redevelopment boom is a prime example of that, he said.

“There’s now Amazon and redevelopment everywhere. It’s part of this massive regional story of the whole area changing right before our eyes. We want to cover that,” says Dil.

Amazon, it should be noted, is Axios D.C.’s first advertiser.

Dil and Johnston say the region’s size, with two states, one city and a number of localities, does present a challenge.

“It’s been fascinating to get a sense of how you pick and choose,” says Johnston. “There’s just so much happening. And, also, how do you cover it in a comprehensive way?”

He said a recent story about vaccine mandates for public employees struck this balance, explaining D.C.’s mandate and ticking off mandates in other jurisdictions.

In terms of operations, many Axios employees still work from home, but Johnston says the Clarendon office at 3100 Clarendon Blvd remains the company’s “central hub.”

After this fall, Johnston says staff will focus on getting a better sense of what appeals to readers and how the business works in various local markets. The current plan is to launch newsletters in a dozen more cities in 2022.

The growth comes as Axios shakes off failed talks of merging with The Athletic or being acquired by German publishing company Axel Springer. The latter ended up buying Rosslyn-based Politico, from which the Axios founders split when founding their company in 2017.

Still independent and newly-invigorated by its foray into local, Axios recently announced a number of promotions, including moving Johnston to the newly-created publisher role, after he previously served as Editor in Chief. He will oversee both the local news operation and “Axios Pro,” a new subscription service.

“I’m super excited about just continuing to grow as fast as we can,” Johnston said.

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