Sep 26, 2023 - Economy

Punchbowl News expands website, eyes $20M in revenue

Punchbowl News co-founders Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer at the AT&T Forum on March 31, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Punchbowl News, the D.C.-based congressional news startup, on Tuesday debuted a revamped website with links to stand-alone stories.

Why it matters: The web expansion will make Punchbowl's content more discoverable to those who may not be D.C. insiders.

  • CEO Anna Palmer told Axios that a dynamic site will also make it easier for other media outlets "to cite and more easily link to the stories we are consistently breaking three times a day or more."
Screenshot of Punchbowl News' new website

Details: The new site, which mirrors Punchbowl's pink and black branding, includes stand-alone article links to stories that are typically published in Punchbowl's emails.

  • The site includes an archive of all of the company's free and paid newsletters dating back to its launch.
  • It offers free stories to visitors, but premium members get access to additional content, such as exclusive polls, deep dives and reports.
  • In building stand-alone pages for its articles, Punchbowl is hoping its content becomes discoverable to people looking for news updates on search engines.

Catch up quick: Punchbowl News co-founders Jake Sherman, Anna Palmer and John Bresnahan left Politico to launch Punchbowl News in early 2021.

  • The company, which has since expanded to 21 full-time employees, has earned a reputation as the top chronicler of news on Capitol Hill.

By the numbers: Punchbowl is on track to earn nearly $20 million in revenue this year, up from $10 million in 2021.

  • While the firm makes a sizable amount of money selling subscriptions to D.C. professionals, the majority of its revenue comes from selling ads and event sponsorships to companies looking to reach members of Congress and Washington opinion leaders.
  • Punchbowl's premium membership, which costs $300 annually, was responsible for driving more than 10% of the company's revenue in 2021, Axios reported.
  • Palmer declined to offer subscriber numbers, but she said newsletter subscriber growth is up 35% year over year.
  • The company produced more than 40 events last year.

Between the lines: The web expansion will provide more ad inventory for Punchbowl, which is known to sell out of sponsorships to its popular daily AM and PM newsletter briefings.

  • The company plans to start actively selling sponsorships and site takeovers to a broader group of advertisers.

Be smart: Punchbowl's core audience will always be the leadership on Capitol Hill, K Street and the White House, Palmer said, but the company sees opportunity in expanding into other sectors that rely on those power centers.

  • Last year it expanded its coverage focus to include financial services.
  • "We have a large audience that wants Washington explained to Wall Street," Palmer said, noting, "There's a tremendous editorial case and business case" for the expansion.

The big picture: Punchbowl's rise comes amid a broader pivot toward niche websites, following a decade of bloat in the digital media industry.

  • Many new upstarts, specifically in the business-to-business news space, have launched with a set of newsletters before expanding to things like podcasts and web articles.
  • Despite the web push, Palmer said newsletters will always be core to Punchbowl News. Emails have been a primary driver of the D.C. information economy for nearly two decades.
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