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article imageNew website promises to be Canadian version of Politico Special

By David Silverberg     Nov 26, 2010 in Politics
Toronto - If you're a Canadian political junkie, chances are you find yourself skimming through media reports from many news organizations to get your fill of the Hill. But as of this week, a new Canadian site hopes to offer you a one-stop politics shop.
The U.S. has Politico for its in-depth political news and now an online media outlet is aiming to be the Politico of Canada. iPolitics.ca launched this week and the site features political coverage on policy, departmental news and inside scoops from Parliament Hill. It not only includes original reporting from eight full-time journalists but also news feeds from Canadian Press and Postmedia. Also, the content partnership with Postmedia allows the conglomerate to republish iPolitics.ca articles after they appear on the site.
If Monday’s traffic congestion is any indication, iPolitics.ca may have a bright future: on Monday, the site’s servers crashed because it was flooded with more than 30,000 pageviews within hours. The Ottawa-based team can handle the financial burden of such an emergency – they are funded by a wealthy family in Canada who gave them a cheque in “the seven figures.”
Founder James Baxter, formerly a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation, spoke to us about the site’s paywall, the importance of reporting on Canadian politics and why the site isn’t for the average news consumer.
Q: Why do you think iPolitics.ca is necessary in today’s already crowded media landscape?
Baxter: Readership habits are changing. Verticals like iPolitics.ca thrive because people want to go to the best-informed news sites. I think across the world there is a cheapening of political coverage along with growing cynicism and a trend toward columns as opposed to straight-up reporting. We realize our site is not for everybody, but for people who are intelligent, like to have facts and make up their own minds.
Q: So iPolitics.ca isn’t for the everyday news junkie?
Baxter: Reporters are aiming iPolitics.ca coverage for professionals working in the public service. The coverage is more micro-level than what you would find in, say, The Globe & Mail. It’s for people who live, drink and breathe politics. People like those working in medical associations, trade groups, exporters, companies supplying the government…they would be interested in our news.
Q: You have a paywall on your site, offering monthly subscriptions starting at $15. Why did you decide to go this route, considering how contentious paywalls have been recently?
Baxter: I would be lying if I said that decision didn’t keep me up at night from time to time. The future of news is still up for grabs, and people from Rupert Murdoch to the Globe & Mail owners are trying to figure out how can we make this a professional business again. I think time is running out to come up with solutions. We started with a paid service because we hope people realize there’s value in our news. It would be harder if we started offering news free then decided to clamp down on it.
Q: What were some of the challenges you faced getting iPolitics.ca off the ground?
Baxter: Getting past the fear factor of finding good reporters who are willing to give themselves to journalism. I notice some are going into PR, some don’t want to tackle politics, and that’s fine. After all, we were below the radar for a long time, we only are just now getting a gamut of resumes. That’s OK. We husbanded our resources and are well funded going into the future.
Q: Speaking of moving forward, what else can we expect from iPolitics.ca in the coming months?
Baxter: I was just in a meeting about an iPhone app so that’s in the works. Also, we want to bring the fun back in the newsroom because we’re dog-tired trying to get the site off the ground. We know iPolitics.ca can be fun and compelling and we also want to come up with new ways to tell political stories. That’ll be our challenge going forward.
For more information on developments in media, visit our sister site Future of Media
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