Politico plots sales team growth to reach $135 million in revenue next year

Politico made $113 million globally in 2018. The publisher wants to grow that by 20 percent in 2019 and is restructuring — and growing — its sales organization to hit future business targets.

In 2019, Politico will grow its sales team by 15 percent to 171 people, said Bobby Moran, the publisher’s chief revenue officer. (The company already expanded the sales team by 18 percent this year.) This will amount to an overall staffing investment worth $3 million, Moran said. Politico’s sales expansion is happening as the company expands its business into new regions and markets, including the recent launch of its Pro-branded subscription business in Canada and an expanded presence in California.

Along with the staffing investment, Politico is restructuring part of its sales organization. Politico’s revenue team has two large teams: one focused on selling subscriptions to Politico Pro to businesses and another that focuses on advertising and inside sales, as well as live events and a branded content studio.

The consumer-facing sales team is being restructured to focus on different functions, rather than specific business tactics such as ads and live events, Moran said. This includes the creation of four new specialized units: a new business team fully dedicating bringing in new advertisers; a client success and production team focused on delivery and execution of large-scale programs across the Politico business; a “C-Suite and VIP Engagement” team which will focus on growing the relationship with the company’s largest and long-term clients and top business executives; and a unified revenue ops team to support various functions.

Landing more big accounts is a top focus area for Politico, Moran said. Last year, Politico landed a seven-figure deal with AARP, which agreed to a seven-month program focused “on the impact of the 50-and-over voter during the midterms,” Moran said. “It performed incredibly well, but it was a massive undertaking. We want to be able to do that with five, 10, 15 partners next year, but we weren’t structured to handle those partnerships in a way that we wanted them to be. That’s why we decided to create a team whose sole job is to focus on ensuring we can deliver those types of partnerships at scale.”

Subscriptions account for more than half of Politico’s revenues today; advertising brings in the rest. Both are growing at a healthy pace, Moran said, with subscription revenue up by 24 percent year over year (with a renewal rate north of 90 percent) and ad revenue up by 17 percent.

By bringing in $113 million in 2018, Politico has doubled its global revenue over the past five years, according to Vanity Fair. This makes Politico profitable by $2 million. Moran confirmed both numbers and attributed Politico’s thin profit margin to the fact that the company is continuing to make investments in everything from continued global expansion, to hiring more reporters and business executives and other new business initiatives.

“You could say ‘only $2 million,’ yes, but compare us to competitors in the space who are not profitable or missing targets entirely,” Moran said. “[Politico founder] Robert [Allbritton]’s focus is building a sustainable media company for the long term. We’re investing millions of dollars in areas that will pay dividends down the road — we want to double the size of the company in the next five years. That requires investing back into the organization.”

Going forward, Politico will continue to explore new revenue products such as data services.

“We see an opportunity in the regulatory space to create a product that’s similar to the current Pro product,” Moran said. “That could be an eight-figure business.”