“On average, only 5% of people make it to the end of an 800-word article they choose to click on,” said Kate Meissner, the news media company’s vice president for business development, during the Brainsnacks seminar at the INMA World Congress in Washington, D.C. “So if you’re a journalist and you’re writing your last 200 words, chances are no one’s going to read them.”
Additionally, Meissner said, “on average across the Internet, any time they come to a publisher’s home page, two-thirds of people will bounce before clicking on a single page or article.” This is a function of all the sources available today, she said. “Trying to figure out what you haven’t read yet ... the Internet actually hasn’t made it easier for you.”
Finally, she noted digital media users today are more distracted than ever before. “Chances are, no matter how compelling my presentation is right now, you are going to check your phone during it,” she said. “I’m not going to blame you. We’re addicted! It’s a real problem!”
Axios’ solution to surfacing its content in this environment is what the company calls “smart brevity.”
“Almost everything we do is about 200 words,” Meissner said. “Very simple formula: headline, multi-media, summary, and axiom. That’s the brevity piece. The way we do that is actually the smart piece. We’ve hired the most well-wired journalists across their areas of expertise.”
The result? In just over one year, Axios has gone from nothing to 8.6 million monthly unique visitors and 80 million monthly pageviews. The company has 300,000 unique newsletter subscribers. Further, the team has been named to Vanity Fair’s the New Establishment, the Recode 100, and Fast Company’s World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies.
On the business side, Meissner said Axios applies the same strategy to its native and display advertising model.
“There’s a lot of short-termism in how you think about your revenue model,” she said. “We have the benefit of thinking in the long term and thinking about an advertising model that could truly be additive.”
Despite its early success, Axios, which was funded through venture capital, is not yet profitable. “At any early stage start-up, your focus is really going to be on your top line for valuation rather than on your bottom line,” she said. “But we have a lot of discipline when it comes to profitability.”