Apr 30, 2024 - Business

⏱️ 1 media thing: Speed matters


Jim VandeHei leading Axios' first company retreat in 2017. Photo: Sara Fischer/Axios

Axios CEO Jim VandeHei is out with his new book "Just the Good Stuff: No-BS Secrets to Success." (It's already the No. 1 new release in leadership reads on Amazon.)

  • The book lays out VandeHei's best tools and tips for effective leadership. But for media insiders, there's one clear takeaway: Don't wait.

Why it matters: The media industry is being upended so rapidly that time has become an executive's most precious resource. Often, leaders waste valuable time, energy and resources trying to validate things they know will work, or stress test problems that they already know how to fix.

  • "Think of all the time wasted avoiding tough conversations or difficult decisions or unpleasant moments. We dither, ignore, nibble around the edges. All this does is prolong misery for you — and everyone else involved," VandeHei writes.

The big picture: VandeHei understands the power of the first-mover advantage.

  • VandeHei, Axios' Mike Allen and Politico's John Harris saw an opportunity to create a digital-first politics website at a time when print outlets like the Washington Post and Time were slow to take risks.
  • In his book, VandeHei notes that his wife encouraged him to move fast and take the risk — giving up his $140,000 salary while raising two young kids to start Politico.
  • VandeHei and his colleagues saw an opportunity to launch Politico Pro quickly in 2010 while one of its main competitors — National Journal — took its time trying to over-survey the market to figure out what would work. And today, much of Politico's business is driven by premium subscriptions.
  • For Axios, VandeHei saw a critical opening in the market to deliver editorial insights to professionals around communications. Today, Axios Communicators is one of its fastest-growing and most successful products. (It's a close second to Axios Finish Line, a leadership column VandeHei co-authors that inspired his book.)

What to watch: Axios will be a first-mover in harnessing the power of AI to move its business forward. VandeHei has already detailed his plans publicly to shift company strategy.

The bottom line: Pounce.

  • "This is the magic," VandeHei writes. "You need to have the smarts and courage to take the breaks you make."

Go deeper: Listen to VandeHei on Jacob Donnelly's podcast


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