A New Day: 6 Questions With CQ’s David Ellis
A few days ago, Vice President of News David Ellis gathered every person in our newsroom.
This is my second stint at Roll Call —> CQ Roll Call —> The Economist Group, but in all the years I’ve been affiliated with this company, I had never actually seen all of our journalists gathered in one place. It was exciting.
The purpose was explaining a series of changes that are going to help our entire business stay competitive. Because CQ clients are paying customers, and most people read Roll Call online for free, our models for making money are quite different. The changes on that side of our newsroom just up the street from the Capitol don’t really affect Roll Call, but our fates are intertwined, and everyone within the organization benefits from the brains supplying CQ customers with the sharpest policy news in the industry.
David, now six weeks on the job, took the helm of this organization after many years at Bloomberg. He had already mapped out his initial plans to me over corncakes and catfish one afternoon, but seeing them in real time helped me understand the improvements.
The first thing you notice on CQ.com now are the “Today at a Glance” listings with a full congressional schedule, not far from quick news stories by our Capitol Hill team, important official documents and transcripts of pretty much everything happening in Washington. Then there are a bunch of easy to find blogs getting you up to speed on different policy topics.
The new site also makes it easier for lobbyists, advocates and people closely tracking Congress to access our other databases. I got a tour of the site last week and learned things I didn’t know about our own company. CQ houses congressional staff names, dates and information about town halls back home, facts and figures on marital status and religion, along with a full set of info for all 50 state houses. Sitting atop a file cabinet during the presentation, David called it “the most complete directory of legislative aides and functions in the city,” which sounds about right to me. There’s even a pronunciation guide for members of Congress’ names — something I would have loved when I was the political editor of the “PBS NewsHour.” (Radel is pronounced like cradle, by the way.)
David’s newsroom talk — which concluded with the staff sharing bottles of Dogfish Head and Founders Oatmeal Stout to celebrate — had everything to do with our organization, the strength of our respective brands and what our journalists are doing inside the Capitol each and every day.
I laid out my vision for Roll Call in my first Newsroom Confidential column on Jan. 28. I have realized since taking over the paper that people don’t always know all of the cool stuff you’re doing. I wrote then:
[W]e haven’t always done the best job of explaining changes within the organization to this community, but we’re turning that around.
For example, as a loyal reader, you surely must know that everything found at rollcall.com is free, right? And that you can download our Roll Call app in a split second to make sure you get breaking news alerts and the latest news from our team. Do you follow @rollcall on Twitter?
As I heard David explaining the CQ changes to the staff during our newsroom meeting, I was thinking the same thing. I wanted to give him a chance to talk about the new CQ.com unveiled today, and what’s next.
Here’s a partial transcript. I hope you go check out the new offerings, and of course, keep reading Roll Call.
CB: So what exactly is happening today and how does it affect the people that use CQ every day?
DE: People are going to see a refreshed and dynamic new site that’s easier to use and more intuitive. One of the things that I felt as a newbie here is there’s an intimidating amount of information behind this site and an intimidating amount of talent in the newsroom. Now we have a way of getting to that information faster and finding all sorts of ways to get to scheduling information, information about members, as well as the latest news, prominently displayed on the CQ Now box on the site.
CB: So if I’m used to getting CQ email alerts, what’s different?
DE: You’ll still get all the news that you have already identified means the most to you, plus you’ll be exposed to a wealth of other information. For example, people who are subscribers to our executive briefings — Agriculture and Food, Banking and Finance, Defense, Energy and Environment, and Transportation — will be able to, with one click, dive in and get themselves signed up for “The Morning Take” from the other four.
By the time you get up in the morning there’s going to be an agenda-setting newsletter in your inbox ready to go. Throughout the day, the blog editors are going to have an ongoing conversation on the issues that matter most. On the new CQ.com, you’re going to see the news and instant analysis, as well as the deep dive policy stuff that we’re known for. It’s all there on one site.
CB: What else is happening?
DE: On the special publication side, Health Beat is the one-stop shop on everything in the U.S. health care system, from Affordable Care Act implementation to how doctors get paid. And that’s something we’re also building out as well. We’ve added people to the beat to produce even deeper and stronger coverage.
CB: OK, but we all know that our industry is facing major changes. Isn’t it tough to have a company focused on premium content like this?
DE: What we’re delivering right now is great value, and we’re adding to it. So people who are already our clients are going to get a wave of new information, new ways to receive that information and even some new products at no additional cost. We think the value of that is keeping people informed and satisfied but attracting new people to the fold.
CB: But why now?
DE: We’re building the site for the way people live and work now. Virtually everything on the site is multi-platform. So it delivers to your iPad and your smartphone as well as your desktop. We’re now with people all day long in new ways, with more information. We live in a 24-hour information delivery world. That’s often used as an excuse to throw anything out there without much news judgment. And what we bring is credibility, accuracy, depth. When you hear from CQ throughout the day, it’s important, it matters and it’s insightful.
CB: Anything multimedia?
DE: Yes, we’re doing video webinars. It’s sort of like the Roll Call politics webinar you’re moderating on Tuesday, but exclusively for CQ subscribers. The first one is May 8 with John Donnelly, who writes the CQ On Defense blog, and we’ll follow up with others on specialty topics.
With thanks to Bridget Bowman for transcribing.