Iain Dale may be onto something – but at what price to his soul?

I’ve just been reading the two interviews that Iain Dale has just flagged up about his new Politico magazine. It’s an interesting business model – effectively The House Magazine with bite.

The House Magazine has to be one of the most interminable publications going. Ostensibly a way of hoovering up lobby cash in the form of advertising they rarely bother to make their content interesting at all. I was particularly outraged earlier this year at work to get a phonecall from one of its sister publications offering to “sell” us space for an article on one of our campaigns which they had got a government minister to write an article criticising. They were effectively blackmailing a small NGO and if we didn’t happen to be both better at communicating with MPs directly than them and keenly aware of that fact, we might have fallen for it (we won the campaign).

I don’t know any MPs who admit to avidly reading the House beyond the merest of occasional flickings through – God knows they shouldn’t have the time. But a slimmer, easier read might be more of a likely prospect.

The thing that I’m most keenly aware of with blogging is that although very few people read websites such as this, it tends to be political obsessives who, relatively speaking and with plenty of exceptions, are relatively high up the greasy poll compared with the average punter. It’s one of the reasons I can only laugh when people decide to lecture me about making this website more accessible “to the voter”. I don’t have any obligation to reach out to the voter and it isn’t my job to. Even Iain’s website with its 10x bigger readership is consumed by comparatively few “normal” people. With all due respect to the people out there who do indeed strive to use their blogs as a communications tool with their community (and I’m not saying that’s a wasted exercise as local communities have movers and shakers as much we have at a national level), blogging with an overt focus on trying to appeal to the average voter is doomed to failure.

But talking to the “right” people can be very effective indeed. If that’s Iain’s pitch, I can see him selling a lot of advertising space at the expense of Dod’s. Of course, that’s when the tricky part starts. Iain is very quick to emphasise that the magazine will be cross-party, but what will he be doing to ensure that the advertising tail doesn’t end up wagging the dog? If you don’t have a six-figure lobbying budget you don’t exist as far as Dod’s is concerned. One of the things I’ve liked most about 18DS is that it opened the door to a much wider range of voices. Will The Politico have a similar philosophy?

1 comment

  1. I’m really pleased that you “get” it. Obviously the business model is ad driven, but if we ever resort to the tactics which the House Magazine ad people to I will slit my throat.

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