The Mirror

Politico Wants To Crush It And Crush It Real Good

Betsy Rothstein Gossip blogger
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We’ll just call this one the Salt-N-Pepa memo.

Ahead of its dinnertime debut of Politico Europe, the powers that be at Politico — the duo of Jim VandeHei and John Harrismost often known as VandeHarris — have released a memo to end all memos.

To those journalists who thought Will McAvoy (HBO’s ‘The Newsroom’) was the most unrealistic fictitious TV editor who ever existed, turns out we were all wrong.

“Two questions preoccupy us,” VandeHarris wrote in a worldly memo. “Did we crush it on what we just did? And what can we crush next?”

(Ooh baby baby. Baby baby. OW! We’re crushing it. We’re crushing it real good.)

At 6 p.m. tonight D.C. time (midnight Brussels time), Politico will launch its most ambitious plan to date. Their mission is to take over the world. Even the memo has an importance level–what could it be other than “high”?

For anyone who has followed Politico‘s endless stream of self-congratulatory memos over the years, this one truly takes the cake.

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That the memo channels Salt–N–Pepa and Will McAvoy’s character is no exaggeration. As those who watched Aaron Sorkin‘s now deceased TV drama know, McAvoy is infamous for long, moralistic newsroom speeches. Above all, Politico must always remember its mission.

Except in this memo, they pointedly declare that Politico‘s mission has changed.

“You have heard us many times in the past describe our mission of being the dominant politics and policy news organization in Washington. Now is the time to be very clear that this mantra has changed. Our aim is to be the dominant publication covering politics and policy for an elite audience in Washington, the states, and around the world.”

Daddy Warbucks, a.k.a. Robert Allbritton, has given them marching orders: Triple the company’s size in the next four years.

In return, they explain, “He has pledged to back that challenge with robust investment, powered by the substantial revenue generated currently by POLITICO.”

(We’ll crush it. We’ll c-crush it real good.)

The memo appears to read everyone’s minds with this question: “How will we pull this off and can it really work?”

Needless to say, when VandeHarris asks itself a question like that, the answer is not going to be “you can’t” or “no.”

The response is largely vague and lofty–oh well. (It’s a memo, after all and they’re crushing it real good.)

*The Chief Revenue Officer has created a specific plan.

*There will be more bulletins, newsletters, breaking news alerts and in-depth enterprise reporting.

*More events.

*A bigger commitment to innovation.

Here’s where VandeHarris sound like a couple of cheerleaders.

“It also means a real commitment to innovation, as we use technology to personalize our content to give readers what they want, when they want it (right now) and how they want it (on a mobile platform).”


Another way they say they will achieve their goals? More. As in MORE.

“It means recruiting more and more creative and ambitious people, and thinking systematically about how we educate our people about the distinctive skills and values needed to excel at POLITICO. And it means scaling all of this, rapidly and methodically.”

Politico readers will have to adjust to reading about people they’ve never heard of and seeing names don’t know. For instance, the first edition of Politico Europe will include an interview with Jean-Claude Junker. In case you’ve never heard of Jean-Claude, he’s the European Commission Prez. Never men to shy away from self-compliments even before success happens, VandeHarris say there will be a story on Google’s confrontation with European regulators. They insist it “will be eagerly read a few hours from now on mobile devices in Silicon Valley and K Street alike.”

Oddly for Politico, they enter a Martian-like touchy-feely territory by stressing the importance of friendship and connection in their work. “We also have three dozen new POLITICO journalists to call colleagues and friends,” they write, noting that some guy named Ryan Heath — the Brussels Playbook writer — will soon be as famous as Mike Allen and Ben White.

“What we value most of all is the satisfaction of building a team. Like-minded, high-achieving people who genuinely like each other — that has always been the real POLITICO secret sauce.”

Wait. Politico has secret sauce? Does this involve the sweetness of Jake Sherman and the saltiness of John Bresnahan?

They go on to talk about how their employees “play aggressively to win” while being “respectful, self-aware and generous.”

(Politico has, ahem, always been known for its self-awareness and generosity. Also, it’s humility.)

As has been the new refrain at Politico for the last few years, web traffic is now dirt under its shoe. Anyone who thinks traffic is important is surely going to hell.

“The quality and integrity of the content can never be compromised by bias or scrounging for traffic. A lot of companies are attracting record traffic, but ask yourself: is that a deal with the devil worth making?”

Another hilarious part of the Salt-N-Pepa memo comes when they tell employees how they must re-think everything they’ve ever thought Politico means. Employees must not focus on the past. The present isn’t advisable either.


“One of these responsibilities is a commitment to think and act anew. …Clinging to old ways, even current ways, is prohibited. Never can we do something simply because that’s the way we’ve always done it. Listen to the audience and trust the numbers. And adapt, smartly and swiftly.” 

And then the now infamous line: “Two questions preoccupy us. Did we crush it on what we just did? And what can we crush next?”