Robert Allbritton doesn’t deal in specifics but the investor behind Politico insists to Gabe Sherman in The New Republic that the print-online hybrid will turn a profit in six months even though traffic is down more than 50 percent from its pre-election heights. Allbritton: “We’re way ahead of budget. It wouldn’t surprise me if the profit this year would count in the millions of dollars.” And Icarus was positive his wax wings would hold together … I’m not suggesting Politico will fail but it would surprise me if anyone could be sure of making millions in profit — not revenue, profit — on a two-year-old ad-based startup with 60-plus staffers in these uncertain times.
One thing going in Politico‘s favor: the traffic its advertisers most want to reach likely are the users left after the boom, the serious political types who aren’t following just scoops or only care about politics between election cycles. Sherman reports that “the outfit is largely paid for by print advertisers who consider Politico a Washington must-read.” The New York Times‘ Bill Keller — whose own paper provides a cottage industry for people who like to come up with business models for newspapers — isn’t sure he sees a business model that works in Politico: “Politico has focused on an inside game. I’m not sure if it translates to an outside game. I’m not sure how they get scale, and, if they don’t, I’m not sure what the business model is.”
For his part, Allbritton doesn’t plan to fund major investigative reporting a la the Times and says he worries about the newspaper model: “I don’t know if [the Times is] going to be around in a few years,” he told Sherman. “I love the Times, but I’m worried.” He also says he’s willing to go web-only “as long as the revenue is there” — and that could be in five years.