Jan 4, 2022 - Economy & Business

Protocol launches new expansion after Axel Springer takeover

Photo credit: Tim Devine for Protocol

Protocol is adding 25 new positions, bringing its total employee count to roughly 80 by the end of the year, its new president Bennett Richardson told Axios.

Why it matters: It represents a comeback for the company, which launched weeks before the pandemic shut down the country in early 2020.

  • Like dozens of other news outlets, Protocol was forced to make cuts in response to the uncertainty driven by the pandemic. It laid off 13 people, roughly 1/3 of its staff at the time.
  • Today, Protocol has a newsroom of 40 and a business team of 15. 

Details: Over the past year and a half, Protocol has focused on coverage of niche tech topic areas, like Chinese technology, fintech and enterprise computing.

  • Its coverage is designed for business, technology and policy professionals, with roughly 1/3 of its audience coming from each category.

By the numbers: Richardson said the company now has 200,000 people who have signed up to receive at least one of Protocol's eight newsletter products.

  • Roughly 50,000 are signed up for Protocol's main daily newsletter, "Source Code."

Catch up quick: Protocol was launched by former Politico owner Robert Allbritton and acquired by German publishing giant Axel Springer alongside its sister publications Politico and Politico Europe last year. Richardson believes Axel Springer is a good fit and will help scale Protocol globally.

  • Richardson, a longtime Politico and Protocol business leader, was named president of the publication in December. Tim Grieve, the founding editor of Politico's subscription division Politico Pro, was recently promoted to editor-in-chief.

The big picture: "Our long-term ambition is definitely to build Protocol into a hybrid model with professional services and subscriptions," Richardson said, referring to a business model that closely mimics that of Politico.

  • Politico launched Politico Pro for policy professionals in 2011, and it's now a significant portion of its revenue.
  • Today, Protocol is 100% advertising-supported, with 1/3 of revenue from branded content. "For us, it has meant a real focus on thought leadership," Richardson said.

What's next: Looking ahead, Protocol plans to launch "Protocol Climate," a newsletter focused on the tech industry’s role in combating the climate change and emerging climate technologies.

  • It's also launching "Protocol Policy," a new newsletter focused on tech policy sent three times per week. It will be expanding its coverage of entertainment and gaming via a new, combined newsletter that also focuses on web3.

The bottom line: "There aren't a lot of places where you can reach engineers and C-suite executives alike through the same publication," Richardson said. "Protocol has been able to convene an audience that touches both of those communities."

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