Jun 22, 2021 - Economy

Scoop: The Hill ramps up sale talks

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Hill, a Beltway-based print publication that receives significant national traffic to its digital website, is being more aggressively shopped by its owner Jimmy Finkelstein, sources tell Axios.

  • It’s held recent talks with broadcasting giant Nexstar Media Group, a source tells Axios.

Why it matters: Finkelstein has held talks for years about offloading the publication, but sources who have been recently pitched on the sale say those talks have gotten more serious amid a ripe deals market and as Finkelstein looks to capitalize on the outlet's success during the Trump-era boom.

  • Sources say The Hill brings in over $20 million in annual revenue. Most of that revenue comes from digital advertising and branded content. It makes a few million annually from events.
  • Another source disputes that number, and says that revenue last year was about double that.
  • Two sources say revenues and profits right now are historically high for the outlet. One source notes that there's been an aggressive focus on revenue for the past year as sale talks have become more serious.
  • "The Hill gets lots of offers and inquiries and doesn't comment on these sorts of things," a spokesperson told Axios.
  • A spokesperson for Nextstar said, "As a general rule and a matter of policy, we never comment on speculation about M&A."

Catch up quick: Finkelstein co-founded a media holding group that purchased outlets like Adweek, Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter from Nielsen in 2009. He was bought out of that investment in 2013.

  • He came under fire in 2019 for his ties to former President Trump and a scandal at his paper involving former Hill executive and opinion writer John Solomon.
  • A series of Solomon's columns were criticized for containing unsubstantiated claims involving President Biden and his son's connections to Ukraine. The Hill eventually probed the situation and conceded mistakes were made in the way it handled some of Solomon's columns.

Between the lines: The Hill, which was co-founded by Finkelstein's father in 1994, launched as a newspaper and has since expanded aggressively into digital. It's faced increasing pressure over the past 15 years as upstarts launched and expanded to cover D.C. and politics.

  • Despite increased competition, The Hill often receives more monthly unique visitors to its site than most of its Beltway peers, per Comscore.
  • The Hill received roughly 35 million unique visitors in April, compared to roughly 29 million for Politico and roughly 500,000 for Roll Call.
  • Beginning around 2015, The Hill changed its strategy to focus more on attracting large, national audiences through social media distribution, instead of just niche Beltway readers.

Editor's note: This article was updated after publishing to add the source who disputed the revenue number.

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