Mar 29, 2017

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen
1 big thing: BuzzFeed going public in 2018

Scoop: With the spotlight on Snap's IPO, viral powerhouse BuzzFeed is quietly making preparations to go public in 2018, industry sources tell me. OMG!

The widely (and poorly) copied BuzzFeedwhich began as a "great cat site" and now has foreign correspondents, an ambitious news operation led by Ben Smith, and a massive BuzzFeed Motion Pictures studio in L.A. — mastered the art of sharable content and became a defining brand of the Internet age.

  • The pitch: BuzzFeed, with news and entertainment divisions, styles itself as a media-tech company with "the innovation obsessed culture and structure of a venture-backed tech company": "We are best known for exploding watermelons, The Dress, Tasty, award-winning news investigations, quizzes, and lists."
  • The strategy: BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti has turned down past offers from media companies.
  • Peers: The Big Four of modern digital content companies are BuzzFeed, Vox, Vice and Group Nine Media (millennial-focused online publishers Thrillist, NowThis, The Dodo and Seeker).
  • All have partnered with traditional media companies: NBC invested in BuzzFeed and Vox (and is an investor in Axios), Disney invested in Vice, and Discovery invested in Group Nine.
  • "Vice wants to sell," a top industry source said.
  • What we're watching: Quartz — an Atlantic Media property which, rumor has it, almost sold to Japan's Nikkei a while back — also looks like it might be spiffing up for a possible buyer. Crain's reported this week that the site, designed for the global business class, has turned a profit, earning $1 million in 2016 revenue of $30 million. There have been lots of stories about its financial performance and potential of late — and all seem aimed at attracting possible suitors.
2. Reality check on Zombie Trumpcare

How seriously should we take House Republicans' talk that they're not giving up on Obamacare repeal, and will keep working until they have enough votes to pass it? Axios' David Nather says it's true they'd like to do it, but it's "more likely after Republicans have all taken a break from each other":

  • Conservatives have been giving leaders an earful since this weekend: How can you just drop the issue that you've run on in four elections, without even a vote?
  • House Republicans had a meeting yesterday, filled with talk about how they don't want to give up on repeal. Even President Trump used some happy talk on senators at the White House last night: "I know that we are all going to make a deal on health care. That's such an easy one."
  • One GOP aide's read: "You gotta have a plan to go to the floor. That doesn't exist right now. I think it's revisit it later — the reconciliation vehicle is still viable, would be terrible to let that thing go to waste."
3. Kushner as Kissinger

David Ignatius, in his WashPost column today, has a memorable description of Jared Kusher — husband of Ivanka, and POTUS' son-in-law and senior adviser:

Kushner is apprenticing for the role of Trump's Henry Kissinger. He's the secret emissary, the evaluator of talent, the whisperer of confidential advice. He's the only person in this White House who Trump can't fire, really. All these qualities strike me as beneficial, so long as Kushner uses them to make Trump a better president who learns how to compromise and govern.

"Kushner, taking new White House role, faces rare scrutiny," by AP's Jonathan Lemire:

  • "He has been deeply involved with presidential staffing and has played the role of shadow diplomat, advising on relations with [China,] the Middle East, Canada and Mexico."
  • "[In a] White House whose power matrix is constantly in flux ... Kushner has been closely allied with senior counselor Dina Powell and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn."
  • Hope Hicks, Trump's longtime spokeswoman: "Jared is a visionary with an endless appetite for strategic, inventive solutions that will improve quality of life for all Americans."
4. You'll hear this again

Sean Spicer to April Ryan, at yesterday's briefing:

I get it. But you keep — I've said it from the day that I got here until whatever that there is no connection. You've got Russia. If the President puts Russian salad dressing on his salad tonight, somehow that's a Russian connection. ... I appreciate your agenda here. (Video)

CNN's Dylan Byers reminds us of a denial by Trump in a Jan. 11 presser in New York: "I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we've stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia. ... I have no loans, no dealings, and no current pending deals."

And at Trump's wild East Wing presser on Feb. 16, he said: "I own nothing in Russia. I have no loans in Russia. I don't have any deals in Russia."

5. The new Declaration of Independence

British Prime Minister triggers Brexit — BBC:

  • British Prime Minister "Theresa May has signed the letter that will formally begin the UK's departure from the European Union. Giving official notice under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, it will be delivered to European Council president Donald Tusk."
  • "In a statement in the Commons, the prime minister will then tell [members of Parliament] this marks 'the moment for the country to come together.'"
  • End game: The process is likely to be complete in March 2019.
6. Big trends: Europe's miraculous recovery

Europe's blue-chip stock index is officially outperforming the U.S., Axios' Chris Matthews reports from New York:

  • This fact highlights how underrated the European economic recovery has been as a factor in the post-election surge in economic confidence, as the whole of the European Union is the U.S.'s largest trading partner.
  • Why Europe is booming: The European Central Bank has reduced European sovereign debt loads, which has boosted confidence and the economy.
  • Score one for the bureaucracy: The jury is still out, but it's plausible that in 10 years, both the ECB and the Federal Reserve will be credited for dragging the world out of the Great Recession, while parliaments and congresses bickered. In this age of democratic populism, it might the unelected bureaucrats who deserve our thanks.
7. Tweet du jour

Hat tip: Josh Deckard (@jsdeckard) ...

8. Trump's America

First look ... Forbes launches The American Dream Index, using seven indicators of economic health "to track on a state-by-state monthly basis whether President Trump is Making America Great." The debut rankings:

Best off:

  • 1) Nevada
  • 2) Tennessee
  • 3) Florida
  • 4) Arkansas
  • 5) Georgia

Worst off:

  • 50) Alaska
  • 49) Hawaii
  • 48) Connecticut
  • 47) Illinois
  • 46) Kansas

Washington state ranks 15th, Pennsylvania 16th, Texas 19th, California 26th, Michigan 27th, Wisconsin 29th, Virginia 30th, Maryland 31st, Ohio 32nd, New York 41st and New Jersey 45th.

9. An iconic Dem firm adapts to GOP rule

Heather Podesta tells me she got the idea for her lobbying firm's new name from the archbishop, while she was watching "The Crown" on Neflix. In a move meant to reflect an expanding bipartisan team at the once-Democratic firm, Heather Podesta + Partners today changes its name to Invariant:

  • The name connotes something constant you can rely on. Podesta, who leads a team of 16, plus interns, said of the change: "The firm isn't about me. We're a very different firm now."
  • Heather Podesta does government relations for a number of California companies, and was an early Washington voice for new brands like Snapchat, SpaceX and FitBit.
  • The history: "Heather Podesta founded her eponymous firm in 2007 with one employee. Today, Invariant is the largest independent, woman-owned lobbying firm in the country."
  • What's ahead: The firm is in hiring mode, planning to add big names.
10. 1 fun thing

Vanity Fair's April cover story, "Alec Baldwin Sounds Off," is adapted from Baldwin's memoir, "Nevertheless," out April 4, along with comments from "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on March 1:

When the ["Saturday Night Live"] stage manager took me to my mark for the first dress rehearsal, I had no idea what I was going to do. I mean, literally, the moment I walked out, I just said to myself, "Eyebrow up," and I tried to stick my face and my mouth out. For the actual show, when I was in the makeup room, I put my wig on, and it was like a scene from a mental hospital. I'm getting the wig on me, and I'm sitting there the whole time going "Gyna, Gyna, Gyna." I didn't think about it—I just did it. Now I should probably tell people, "I worked on it for months."

People ask me, "What is your whole gag?' And I tell them, "You can suggest the voice or the way a person looks, but to be successful you have to think of who that person is. To me Trump is someone who is always searching for a stronger, better word, but he never finds it. Whenever I play him, I make a long pause to find that word, and then I just repeat the word I started with: 'These people are great people. They're fantastic people, and I just want to say that working with them was . . . a fantastic experience.' "

Mike Allen