'Axios' Forecast For 30% Revenue Growth Highlights Winning Formula

Amid the dire stories about the existential crisis facing publishers this year, it's heartening to find examples of companies increasing revenue, hiring people and even, gulp, turning a profit. Digital news startup Axios is on course to boost revenue more than 30% to about $58 million this year, The Wall Street Journalreported this week, citing people familiar with its finances.

The company's email newsletter business is fueling that growth, with circulation that has nearly doubled to 1.4 million subscribers from 750,000 a year earlier. The newsletters are focused on a variety of themes, industries and geographies, giving readers a reason to sign up for more than one.

It sends more than 4 million newsletters each day, helping to drive traffic to its website that's free to read. With no paywall, Axios makes 85% of its money from advertising. More than half of revenue comes from newsletter sponsors, including companies such as Comcast, Koch Industries and Wells Fargo, the Journal reported.



Axiosplans to launch more newsletters, including several focused on local news in Denver, Minneapolis, Tampa, Fla., and Des Moines, Iowa. The publisher will start with two-person reporting teams that cover business, technology and education.

It will be interesting to see how those business lines develop, amid competition from local newspapers, business journals and news aggregators. The key will be to keep costs low and identify areas of coverage that are topical and may even be neglected in other outlets.

Axiosappears to have developed a winning formula with stories in a bulleted format that are easy to scan quickly on a smartphone. Section headings like "the latest," "why it matters" and "what they're saying" act as visual guides to help digest key points.

The growth plan comes as many other publishers seek to reduce headcount or eliminate legacy costs that inhibit efficiency. Axios had raised $27 million last December at a pre-money valuation of $200 million, but hasn't spent those funds, the Journalreported.

Bracing for a steep decline in revenue amid pandemic lockdowns, Axios applied for funding from the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program that offered forgivable loans to businesses that kept people in jobs. It received $4.8 million, but gave it back amid the political backlash against businesses that had other sources of funding. That's an enviable position as publishers work through the pandemic recovery.

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