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The Business of Content

Feb 12, 2020

There are few people as knowledgeable about web publishing as Scott Rosenberg. In 1995, he and a group of other San Francisco Examiner journalists launched, one of the first online magazines. An early blogger, he wrote the definitive history of the blogosphere and published it as a book in 2009. Today, Rosenberg is the tech editor for Axios, a website launched in 2017 by Politico founders Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei.

Since its debut, Axios has tried to upend the paradigm for how news can be delivered. Instead of adhering to the structure of the traditional news article, Axios reporters strive for succinctness by delivering information in a bulleted, just-the-facts-ma’am form. As co-founder Jim VandeHei explained in a 2017 interview, “Ninety percent of stories either shouldn’t have been written or should have been 10 percent the length. Most people do not want to spend five minutes on 1500 words of mediocrity on something that has one interesting fact, figure or quote.”

In my interview with Scott Rosenberg, he told me about Salon’s first viral story and explained why the online magazine was way ahead of its time, in both the way it delivered news and how it monetized content. We also discussed Axios’s approach to news gathering and whether it’s “Be smart” tagline is patronizing or enlightening.