Axios to launch fifth vertical, with an emphasis on energy

Not two months into its launch, Axios is moving into its fifth vertical. The Jim VandeHei-helmed startup will launch coverage of the energy sector in March, after poaching two reporters, Ben Geman from National Journal and, more recently, Amy Harder from the Wall Street Journal. Harder’s departure was announced via an internal memo at the Journal Monday morning; Geman started at Axios in the middle of last week.

“We knew that energy would be an area of focus,” Axios editor Nick Johnston said. “There’s been this collision of business and politics and technology, and energy’s been directly affected.

“I have this embarrassment of reporting riches to cover it,” he added.

Harder, who spent three years at the Journal and six years before that at National Journal covering energy policy, covering a wide range of topics, including the departments of energy and environmental protection, carbon taxes, as well as hot-button topics like fracking.  While her mandate is to deliver news, she will focus more on delivering quick-hit pieces of insight, and gathering scoops.

“I’m excited to do only scoops and analysis,” Harder said, though she stressed that she expects her coverage will be digestible even for people who haven’t waded deep into the weeds of energy policy. “I think too often reporters who have been covering a beat for a long time don’t realize when they’re in the weeds,” she said.

That energy newsletter, along with a tech newsletter which will be helmed by new hiree Ina Fried, will launch in March. Harder will also help Axios stand up an energy-focused events business, a strategy Axios is busy pursuing for its other verticals as well.

Axios’s move into energy was anticipated by observers. Its cofounder, Jim VandeHei, frequently mentioned it among the topics he wanted to cover in the months that preceded the launch, starting with a kind of unveiling he did in partnership with Vanity Fair.

It may well also have been anticipated by its advertising partners. BP was among Axios’s launch sponsors, part of the company’s pursuit of blue chip advertising partners, and according to Axios president Roy Schwartz, energy companies will be key to monetizing its coverage.

The key will be transparency. “If BP runs one week, then Chevron can run the next week, and a solar panel maker can run the week after that,” Schwartz said. “The labeling just has to be clear.”

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