March 20, 2017

The rhythm of Washington, D.C. has been thrown off in recent months as President Trump has refined his ability to create entire news cycles with a series of tweets dashed off before breakfast.

So, Politico is trying something different. Today, as pundits chew over the latest twist in the Russia-Trump story, an email will arrive in the inboxes of political junkies across America bearing a digest of everything that happened between 7 a.m. and lunch.

The newsletter, a second edition of Playbook called Playbook Power Briefing, is written by Anna Palmer, Jake Sherman and Daniel Lippman — the same trio that sends the morning edition — aims to be a clutter-free summary that cuts through the clutter of cable news.

“There’s a recognition among our most dedicated readers that by the afternoon, there’s a totally new news cycle,” Palmer said.

This differs somewhat from previous years, where the message coming out of the White House would remain relatively static on a daily basis, Palmer said. Under President Trump, the message can take an abrupt 180-degree turn with just a few keystrokes.

“I think you would typically have one message coming from the White House from the given day, and Trump can upend that with an early-morning tweetstorm,” Palmer said.

Playbook’s fate was in doubt last year when its creator, the inexhaustible Mike Allen, left Politico in a staff exodus that also saw the departure of CEO Jim VandeHei. Allen joined forces with VandeHei and former Politico Chief Revenue Officer Roy Schwartz to create Axios and launched a competing newsletter, Axios AM.

But according to the company, Playbook has thrived in the eight months since Palmer, Sherman and Lippman took it over. A Wall Street Journal story published this morning touted encouraging statistics: The newsletter has added 130,000 subscribers since Allen left, increasing its readership by about 25 percent.

Palmer attributes the growth to a few factors — increased interest over the course of the campaign and during the presidential transition; the debut of one-click sign up on Politico; and a greater focus on audience development since they took over.

The format of Power Briefing will differ somewhat from Playbook. For one thing, it’ll be shorter. And it will eschew Playbook’s three-section format (Driving the Day, Playbook Reads and Playbookers). Beyond that, it will look and feel a lot like Playbook.

Today’s launch is the result of a months-long testing period. During the transition, Politico began sending a prototype afternoon email to a group of about 200 dedicated readers. When they saw open rates in excess of 70 percent, they decided to expand the pool and still saw open rates above 60 percent.

“We want to be where our readers are,” Palmer said. “That means different platforms. But it also means not being wedded to a product that doesn’t fit the news cycle.”

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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