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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Jeremy Clarkson
people
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...

Ashdown Group: Content Manager - Publishing

£30000 - £35000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Guru Careers: Report Writer / Reporting Analyst

£25 - 30k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Report Writer / Reporting Analyst is nee...

Guru Careers: German Speaking Account Manager / Account Executive

£24-30K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A German speaking Account Manager ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own