Axios is on track for $20 million in revenue, ‘outside shot’ at profitability

Axios remains in no rush to release the high-end subscription product that the news publisher publicly discussed months before the company’s January 2017 launch. Its business appears to be growing without it.

Axios expects its annual revenue to double year over year to more than $20 million in 2018 with “an outside shot at being profitable,” said its CEO Jim VandeHei. He sees “a very clear path” to doubling the company’s revenue again in 2019, which may be the year that Axios rolls out at least one and possibly two subscription products.

In November 2016, VandeHei said that Axios would roll out a subscription product that would cost $10,000 a year or more. That’s still the plan, though it’s unlikely to move out of the beta-testing phase by the end of this year, VandeHei said.

When the high-end subscription product does officially launch, it may not be the only one Axios offers. “There is a newer one we’re looking at, but I’m not going to talk about it,” VandeHei said, citing “competitive reasons.”

Whether or not Axios formalizes its subscription business next year, its ability to double revenue in 2019 will more likely be determined by the growth of its advertising business and the audience it can sell to advertisers. In September 2018, 8.3 million adults in the U.S. visited Axios’ site, a 30 percent increase year over year, according to comScore.

Axios premiered its HBO show on Nov. 4, in the hopes of bringing Axios to a broader audience. Given that the publication has been pretty text-heavy, its existing audience is “not necessarily a millennial audience,” VandeHei said.

Before the show had even premiered, Axios got a peek at how the four-episode weekly series may expand people’s awareness of the publication. On Oct. 30, Axios posted a clip to its YouTube channel teasing the premiere episode’s interview with President Donald Trump. That clip has received more than 405,000 views on YouTube as of Nov. 6, but it drew criticism for Axios’ reporter being perceived as too excited by a scoop to dispassionately scrutinize Trump’s claim that he could ban birthright citizenship via executive order. VandeHei disagreed with the clip’s negative reception and focused on a more positive sign. When factoring in the clip being picked up by TV news outlets, “by our estimation 50 million people saw that clip, so maybe one-sixth of the U.S. population saw Axios in action breaking authentic news,” he said.

The HBO show was not produced by Axios’ own video team, which has between eight and 10 staffers working on editorial and sponsored digital videos. The HBO show was directed and produced by documentary filmmakers Perri Peltz and Matthew O’Neill, with an external crew hired from production firm DCTV.

As with its subscription business, Axios is in no rush to formalize its foray into TV. Its HBO show is largely an external production. Documentary filmmakers Perri Peltz and Matthew O’Neill are co-directing and producing the series with a crew hired from production firm DCTV.

The HBO show is “a great test for all of us,” said VandeHei. “Maybe it becomes something more regular. Maybe we do four [episodes], and we decide this isn’t something we want to do every week of our lives. I don’t think we’ll know until we see the reaction and also go through the process [of producing the four episodes],” he said.

Subscribe to the Digiday Video Briefing: A weekly email with news, quotes and stats around the modernization of video, TV and entertainment.

More in Future of TV

Future of TV Briefing: How talent managers see creators’ professionalism levels increasing

This week’s Future of TV Briefing looks at how creators are becoming more professional as they diversify their revenue streams.

Why longer videos are becoming more commonplace on YouTube

Short-form videos may have surged in popularity over the past several years, but the long-form video format is on the comeback trail.

Future of TV Briefing: How creators are setting themselves up for the career long haul

This week’s Future of TV Briefing looks at how creators are preparing for the career long haul.