A decade later, Politico is a major force in the news industry and VandeHei has moved on to found another media startup: Axios.
Launched in January and based (for now) at MakeOffices in Clarendon, Axios has made some big hires, broken some big stories and is growing rapidly, thanks in part to investment from major media companies.
In this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we talked with Jim about his vision for Axios, the current state of the media industry and his take on what’s happening inside the Trump White House.
Some of the initial headlines about Axios, before it launched, revolved around a number VandeHei threw out as a potential price for a subscription: $10,000 per year.
“It could be that number, it could be higher,” VandeHei told us. Large companies and lobbying groups, he said, have that kind of money to pay for information that’s valuable to their business.
For those of us who don’t have thousands to spend on enterprise-focused news and analysis (the subscription service will be launched at a later date) the site and its email newsletters, from marquee names like co-founder Mike Allen and former Fortune columnist Dan Primack, are free. The first thing you’ll notice: the emphasis on brevity. It’s a key ethos at Axios and VandeHei says the goal is to give busy people only the facts they need — “long enough to give you what you need but not so long that it bores you and turns you off.”
In addition to the subscription business, Axios is making money by holding events and by selling advertising to blue chip advertisers like Bank of America, Walmart and BP. VandeHei said that at a time when Facebook and Google are vacuuming up many of the dollars streaming into digital advertising, a diversified revenue stream is important.
On the topic of Trump, VandeHei was candid about what he described as “an unprecedented presidency.” We asked him what might happen to Arlington and the D.C. area under Trump, given the president’s rhetoric about “draining the swamp” and reducing the size of government.
“I don’t know, and I don’t know because the president doesn’t know,” VandeHei said. “I think people assume he came with a very specific plan and a very team that would carry it out, and none of those things is true. They’re making it up on the go.”
VandeHei, who together with Allen interviewed Trump last month, said the president does not have “a strong ideology” outside of immigration and trade. Other issues, he said, are “fully negotiable.”
Lest an optimist think that Trump will get his administration to stabilize and function more like those before it, after a rocky first few weeks in office, it probably isn’t going to happen, according to VandeHei.
“People need to pinch themselves,” he said. “This is not normal.”
“Having had pretty good visibility into this White House, it’s a mess and I’d say it’s arguably worse than you think it is,” VandeHei said. “It’s just competing factions, no trust… it’s a tough way to run a White House. We’re three weeks in, half the people at the senior level think they’re on thin ice and going to lose their job, the other half are angling for a better job that they can have, and none of them are focused on carrying out an agenda that’s going to be awesome for America.”
“The idea that he’s going to suddenly change and that he’s suddenly going to run a more stable White House or that he’s going have a very clear vision of where he wants things to go… there’s a very low percentage chance that that happens. I would just anticipate this level of volatility and this level of insanity until further notice.”
That all said, VandeHei defended Axios’ Trump Tower interview and Mar-a-Lago visit from others in the journalism world who criticized it for appearing too cozy with the incoming administration.
“I find a lot of these arguments silly,” VandeHei said when asked about that and about the turmoil over the news organizations pulling out of the White House Correspondents Dinner now that Trump is president.
“Most reporters are liberal, no doubt about it. Most of them are being egged on to take a very hostile stand against Trump and Republicans,” he said. “But guess what, Republicans run town, they have the House, they have the Senate, they have the White House, they’re about to have the judiciary, they have almost every state government. This is a Republican-run country and you darn well better figure out what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.”
VandeHei had the following advice for journalists in the Trump era: focus on facts, hold people accountable, avoid media “self-flogging” and “maybe stay off Twitter.”
Photo courtesy Axios
Angela Fox, the president and CEO of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, joined us on this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast.
The BID was formed about 10 years ago and charged with “reinventing” Crystal City, changing perceptions about one of the area’s biggest business districts and creating experiences that make it a more dynamic place to live, work and play.
That was not an easy task, especially when half the jobs in the area were set to pick up and leave due to BRAC. We asked Angie about how the BID tackled that challenge, what kind of events it’s hosting this year, and about the changes to Crystal City that could be coming soon.
Also discussed: the Crystal Couture fashion show and sale that’s happening in Crystal City this weekend.
Vanessa Reisis, along with her husband and kids, have been running Goody’s Pizza (3125 Wilson Blvd) since it opened in Clarendon in 2006.
When we checked in with “Momma Goody” last summer, she said the family-owned shop was struggling to keep up with high rent and lots of competition.
But there’s good news: since then business has picked up and Reisis is confident that Goody’s will be able to renew its lease and keep serving the shop’s loyal customers for years to come.
Also, be sure to check out this week’s sponsor, Crystal Couture, which starts next Thursday, Feb. 2, in Crystal City.
On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we sat down with Remy to talk about his career, the making of the Arlington Rap, Donald Trump (of course), making money on YouTube and about his latest music video. (And yes, that is his wife, in her first co-starring role.)
Remy said Santa Claus was a hard act to follow on the podcast, but we gave it a try. We also forgave him for his recent move from Clarendon to Falls Church.
Merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah to all of our listeners!
We close out 2016 with a special holiday podcast, featuring Rev. Sarah Harrison-McQueen of Central United Methodist Church in Ballston, Dr. Leonard L. Hamlin Sr. of Macedonia Baptist Church in Nauck, Rabbi Lia Bass of Congregation Etz Hayim along Route 50, and an exclusive interview with Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus.
This is a family-friendly episode that you can feel free to let your kids listen to.
Chris Farley is a native Arlingtonian who had a knack for running and turned it into a thriving local business.
Farley, the owner and co-founder of Pacers Running, talked with us about how he and his parents bought a local running store and worked hard to grow it to a small chain that also organizes local races.
On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast we also ask Farley about his podcast, Pace the Nation, and about some of his well-known clients. Be sure to stay tuned to the end for a discussion about the challenging retail climate in Arlington County and how e-commerce is impacting local businesses.
The Chamber is very much opposed to a proposed addition to the county’s towing ordinance that would require business owners to individually authorize each tow from their parking lots. The Arlington County Board is set to take up the issue this coming Tuesday, with the County Manager recommending against the so-called “second signature” requirement.
On Airbnb and other short term rentals, the Chamber has actively engaged its members on the county’s new proposed regulations, which are going before the Board on Saturday. With hotels in support of additional regulations, and apartment owners against (they would like the option of generating revenue through Airbnb while they lease up new buildings), the Chamber has declined to take a stance beyond encouraging its members to make their own voices heard.
In this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we asked Kate about those issues, about the current business climate in Arlington — including why so many restaurants and retailers have been closing lately — and about her ascension to the role of President and CEO of the Chamber at a relatively young age.
Bryna Helfer is trying to improve and modernize the way Arlington County communicates with its residents and businesses.
Helfer joined county government as Assistant County Manager for Communications and Public Engagement in September and has been seeking input on the county’s public outreach since.
On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we asked Helfer about her position at the county, about technology and its role in updating the “Arlington Way” system of public outreach, and about why residents occasionally feel “blindsided” by the county’s decision-making process.
In this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we talked with Nick about the current state of Arlington’s restaurant business, why so many restaurants are closing, and why he’s decided to start investing in and advising new restaurants. Nick also discusses the ups and downs and strategy behind running a bar and restaurant.
In Part 1, we interview a number of local officials and politicos on a range of topics. Among the interviewees in Part 1 of the broadcast: Arlington Co. Democratic Committee Chair Kip Malinosky, ARLnow columnist Peter Rousselot, School Board member-elect Tannia Talento and School Board member Nancy Van Doren.
In the second half of our broadcast, we heard election night speeches from local Democratic officials and later (around 14:00) interviewed County Board Chair Libby Garvey, County Board member Jay Fisette and state Senator Adam Ebbin. Among other things, we asked Garvey about her relationship with the Democratic party, we asked Fisette whether he’ll run for reelection next year and we asked Ebbin about the possibility of marijuana decriminalization in Virginia.
(Updated at 6:55 p.m.) After fending off a primary challenge from fellow Democrat Erik Gutshall, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey (D) is now running for reelection against independent candidate Audrey Clement.
In this week’s podcast, we asked Garvey about a number of local issues, from development to transit along Columbia Pike to preparations for snow removal this winter.
We also asked Garvey (around 36:30) about her support of Republican-turned-independent John Vihstadt, her colleague on the County Board. It was Garvey’s endorsement of Vihstadt over Democrat Alan Howze that precipitated her temporary expulsion from the local party’s good graces.
“He’s an independent, he’s clearly an independent,” Garvey said of Vihstadt. “It’s basically where a lot of Democrats are moving towards, and in fact where I think the center of this country is: socially liberal and fiscally responsible.”
“That’s where a lot of us are and I think it’s where Arlington is,” she concluded, “which is why I think John won and why I won.”
Garvey said the Board is functioning better as a body with more diverse viewpoints, as opposed to the previous all-Democrat regime that was “accused, somewhat justly I believe, of being in lockstep.”
Check out interviews of other local candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot from our previous podcast episodes: County Board candidate Audrey Clement (I) and congressional candidates Rep. Don Beyer (D) and Charles Hernick (R).
It’s true, Clement may be a perennial candidate, but she has dedicated supporters and, more importantly, she goes to the trouble of running for local office when other serious challengers to the Democratic candidate are often nowhere to be found. It’s hard to view that as anything other than a positive in our democratic system.
Clement’s ideas may seem a bit incongruous — she bikes everywhere but doesn’t like bike races, she is in favor of affordable housing but generally against new development — but she is consistent in her views.
On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we asked Clement about her opposition to those bike races; her opposition to development, particularly recent development in Westover; her support of renewable energy; and her desire to lessen the tax burden on Arlington residents.
Beyer is a freshman member of Congress who’s running in his first reelection campaign. Since succeeding long-time congressman Jim Moran, Beyer has been focused on a number of issues of importance to voters in the Eighth District of Virginia, which includes Arlington.
We asked Beyer about some of those issues, like the rehabilitation of the Memorial Bridge and aircraft noise from Reagan National Airport, as well as this year’s election and, of course, the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump.
At a time when Donald Trump is at the top of the Republican Party’s ticket, GOP congressional hopeful Charles Hernick is, well, not anything like Donald Trump.
He’s a policy wonk who isn’t one for heated rhetoric. He’s an economic conservative who’s largely a libertarian on social issues. He believes more needs to be done about climate change.
Hernick truly believes he can do a better job in office than Rep. Don Beyer (D), but — unlike the current presidential race dynamic — doesn’t think Beyer should be jailed. In fact, Hernick acknowledges that Beyer is basically free of skeletons in his closet, which makes running against him even more of an uphill battle than he would otherwise face in the deep blue Eighth District of Virginia.
We talked with Hernick about the issues, about Trump and about Hernick’s own one-time intra-party foe, the ever-interesting Mike Webb.
If you’re a local news nerd who loves hearing about how things work behind the scenes, this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast is for you.
This week we have a wide-ranging chat with Ethan Rothstein, the former editor of ARLnow.com. Ethan, who’s now the East Coast Editor for Bisnow, talks about what it was like to report for ARLnow, plus:
- The future of Arlington’s economy;
- How everyone seems to hate a certain local towing company;
- The story behind the million dollar bus stop;
- The Arlington streetcar saga and how the county flubbed an opportunity to make a better case for it;
- The current state of the news business;
- … and much more.
This is a long episode but is a must-listen for anyone who closely follows news in Arlington.