“We want to be there first,” he said.
In December 2020, Axios bought The Charlotte Agenda, a profitable newsletter, for nearly $5 million. Using this as a model, Axios introduced the newsletter format to 14 cities, including Atlanta; Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville; and Philadelphia. It plans to expand to 11 more by summer.
Two local journalists have been hired in each city to run a daily bulletin which is a mix of original reporting and an aggregation of articles from other media, said Sara Kehaulani Goo, editor-in-chief of Axios. (The company recently hired Jamie Stockwell, deputy national editor of The New York Times, to oversee Axios Local.)
“Even earlier than expected, we found that it was successful from a journalism perspective – we saw high open rates,” Ms Goo said.
As advertising revenue from local sites grows, some cities are getting a third reporter. Axios Local generated nearly $5 million in revenue last year and has 700,000 subscribers in all 14 cities, a spokeswoman said.
Evan Smith, chief executive of The Texas Tribune, an Austin nonprofit founded in 2009, said he was an early subscriber to Axios Austin and reads it daily. “I shoot for them,” he said, but added, “Can you sufficiently cover America’s biggest cities — of which Texas has more than any other state — with two or three reporters?”
VandeHei said Axios was first making sure its local coverage model was sustainable and could work at scale.
“We’re trying to think about how we can do that in every community in America,” VandeHei said.
Between the lines
The company continued to hear from readers who wanted to use its workplace newsletter format to get more people to read internal emails, said Jordan Zaslav, general manager of Axios HQ.