Is Paul Waugh's shock online defection the tipping point?

As a senior lobby journalist quits print, Matthew Bell traces the rise of the political website

As recently as a year ago, it would have been inconceivable that a senior political journalist would quit a newspaper to work for a website. Even today, the departure of Paul Waugh, deputy political editor of the London Evening Standard, to become editor of Politicshome.com, could be seen by some as a sideways move.

But it is a sign of the growing prestige of political websites such as PoliticsHome that they can attract journalists of Waugh's calibre. Perhaps it's not so surprising that Waugh, of anyone, has made the leap: he has established himself as one of Westminster's leading bloggers, and his Twitter feed is followed by 8,610 people. If any lobby correspondent has capitalised on the opportunities of the web, it's Waugh.



"The reaction from colleagues has been fascinating," he says. "A lot of them are shocked. Some people are saying I am the tipping point. But they all see that the future is online. When I started Tweeting, people said I was bonkers, but it has proved to be tailor-made for politics. It's a phenomenally quick and agile way of reporting."



While plenty of journalists have adapted to the demands of multi-platform newspapers, few could draw the same number of readers – or authority – without the masthead.



Some have successfully made the transition: when Dan Sabbagh left The Times as media editor, he set up the media website Beehive City. After breaking a number of stories the site has established its authority. The challenge is how to convert that into a revenue stream.



According to Paul Staines, founder of the Westminster gossip blog Guido Fawkes, specialist websites do not generate significant revenue through advertising, but can boost their creator's media profile, which can translate into revenue. "Iain Dale is the best example of this. Through his blog he has become a media brand, and that generates money."



Political websites will always have a limited audience, says Staines, but they can draw viewers from further afield by mixing insider gossip with stories of wider interest.



"Guido has mass appeal because it has a tabloid scandal element," he says. "We get more traffic than The Spectator or New Statesman sites. This is because we mix things up, and we can run an up-the-skirt picture of Emily Maitlis, which the guys at The Spec would be too embarrassed to do."



Staines makes a living from his blog, and employs only one other person. "The advantage that a website like mine has over a newspaper is that we don't need to rent offices in central London," he says. "My website costs maybe £5,000 a year to put out." His income comes partly from advertising, but also from acting as a story broker: he sells stories to newspapers on behalf of anonymous sources.



Waugh's arrival at PoliticsHome will herald a change to the site's formula. Founded in 2008, it has been "obsessively neutral" up to now, says co-founder Freddie Sayers. "We launched PoliticsHome as an aggregator of political news," he says. "We took our cue from the Drudge Report, so we collect the things worth looking at on one neatly organised page.



It makes the messy and intimidating world of political news easier to access."



Since then, the site has evolved from providing links to providing brief wire-style stories. "We've made a point of only making news judgements. We now see it developing to bring in more personality, and Paul's blog will be part of that. Huffington Post [an American news website] is a great example of half aggregator content, half opinion. I increasingly think a mixed recipe will be more successful."



PoliticsHome is a bigger operation than Guido Fawkes, employing eight staff and a number of interns, but it is also able to offer a service for which it can charge. This summer it launched a two-tier subscription service: a £9 per month lite edition, and a £39 per month professional service, which Sayers describes as "the Bloomberg of politics", offering a tailor-made monitoring service.



Clients include civil servants, unions and PR firms, and Sayers is pleased to have subscriptions from the BBC and The Guardian, which questioned the site's impartiality last September after Lord Ashcroft, the Conservative Party donor, bought a 57.5 per cent stake in it for £1.3m. "The proof is in the pudding; if they thought we were skewed they wouldn't pay."



Sayers says the site has remained editorially independent, and he has not received any complaints. "Lord Ashcroft has never even been into this office," he says.



A date has yet to be set for Waugh's move, though it is hoped he will start in October.



"I will miss newspapers," he says. "But my actual work will not be all that different."

Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Sport
Jose Mourinho restrains his assistant manager Rui Faria, Fabio Borini celebrates his winning penalty and Connor Wickham equalises for Sunderland
sportChelsea 1 Sunderland 2: Deafeat is extra bitter as former Chelsea player Fabio Borini scores late penalty to seal victory
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Online Advertising Account Executive , St Pauls , London

£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Advertising Account Executive - Online, Central London

£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

Business, Marketing and Tourism Volunteer Projects

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: As part of an ongoing effort to support local...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit