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Expand chart
Data: AdImpact; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

The media deal frenzy is coming for Washington, giving longtime owners and investors in political publications a way to finally cash out.

Why it matters: The post-Trump era has been a traffic nightmare for political publications, but business is soaring right now, thanks to a few hot-button issues being debated by a new, divided Congress.

  • The pandemic has been an especially lucrative issue for pharmaceutical companies and trade groups.

Driving the news: Axel Springer announced a deal to acquire Politico last week that values the company around $1 billion, per sources familiar with the deal.

  • The deal values Politico at roughly five times its revenue — which is a little less than $200 million across its U.S. and European operations.
  • The Hill, a Beltway-based publication that gets significant national traffic to its digital website, sold to local broadcast giant Nexstar for $130 million earlier this month. The Hill brought in around $40 million in revenue last year, and around $10 million in profit, according to sources familiar with its finances.
  • FiscalNote, a policy market intelligence firm that bought CQ Roll Call in 2018 for $180 million, is looking to go public via a SPAC IPO at a valuation well over $1 billion, according to sources familiar with its plans.
  • Axios, which focuses on topics beyond politics but has a strong foothold in the area, has been in deal talks.

Be smart: Unlike local TV stations, which make most of their ad revenue in even years during elections, political publications tend to make most of their advertising revenue in odd years — following the election of new members to Congress.

  • Washington influencers and opinion leaders aren't audiences that are sought after for election ads, but they are primary targets for issue ads and ads around corporate social responsibility.
  • Political outlets will make the most ad dollars the year after a new president is elected, due to the onslaught of new regulatory issues being debated in the new Administration's first 100 days.
  • If Congress is divided, or if both chambers are majority controlled by a party opposite of the White House, issues tend to be more contentious, and attract more advocacy ad dollars.

Bottom line: The COVID-19 pandemic, combined with a strong ad market recovery and a divided Congress, have been a boon to DC media companies.

  • A push right now to consolidate the digital media industry has made 2021 a perfect year for many of these companies that have long remained independent or privately-owned, to sell.

Go deeper

10 hours ago - Economy & Business

Exclusive: Industry Dive acquires PharmaVOICE, revenue to hit $80M

Photo courtesy of Industry Dive

Industry Dive, a Washington, D.C.-based business journalism outlet, is acquiring PharmaVOICE, a trade publication for pharmaceutical industry executives, its CEO and co-founder Sean Griffey tells Axios. The deal marks Industry Dive's fourth acquisition in the last year and a half.

Why it matters: The company, which is expected to finish 2021 with more than $80 million in revenue, is pursuing a similar strategy to several other media companies that are trying to remain independent: acquire small brands to get bigger incrementally.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
10 hours ago - Economy & Business

IPO market holds firm amid stock market tumult

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The IPO market is doing its best Alfred E. Neuman impression so far this week, refusing to entertain everyone else's worries.

The big picture: Both the Dow and S&P 500 fell nearly 2% yesterday, as investors tried to measure the fallout of Chinese construction giant Evergrande defaulting on its $300 billion in liabilities.

DOJ sues American Airlines, JetBlue to block "unprecedented" alliance

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Justice Department on Tuesday sued American Airlines and JetBlue to block an "unprecedented series of agreements" that will consolidate the two airlines' operations in Boston and New York City.

Why it matters: The civil antitrust complaint alleges that the planned Northeast Alliance (NEA) "will cause hundreds of millions of dollars in harm to air passengers across the country through higher fares and reduced choice," the DOJ said in a release.

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