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National Journal Aims to Dominate Conversation With New Website

National Journal, a publication most well-known among wonky political insiders, wants to be the publication that starts and dominates the national political conversation. Can they do it?

This morning, National Journal Group debuted their newly redesigned website, NationalJournal.com.  The sleek new website incorporates National Journal Group’s three flagship publications – National Journal, CongressDaily, and The Hotline – into one free website. They will also be consolidated under the National Journal brand, with Congress Daily being renamed as National Journal Daily.

Previously, online access was largely available only to those with a subscription, limiting National Journal’s readership primarily to Hill staffers, lobbyists, and others in the media-politics sphere of DC. With the new website, NJ aims to target a broader readership beyond the Beltway.

“The product that the National Journal reporters are putting out is so important that it can’t wait until the end of the week or even the end of the day,” Editor-in-Chief Ron Fournier told media reporters today.  The new website, which will complement the weekly print magazine, will break news and offer rapid up-to-the-minute coverage and analysis of politics and policy. In the era of the 24/7 news cycle, such an offering will no doubt give them a leg up when competing against the Huffington Posts and Politicos of the world.

The new model will include free content, but will also continue to place some content behind the paywall. Fournier noted that the free website will focus on offering breaking news and analysis, while behind-the-paywall content will focus on the in-depth policy analysis that has long been National Journal’s core product.

National Journal Daily, formerly Congress Daily, will continue to focus on the nuts and bolts of Congress but Fournier said they will have twice as much policy coverage and significantly more coverage of the people and individuals that keep Congress running.

The Hotline will still focus on the deep-dive political coverage that has always been its mainstay, but has a new, redesigned look that is more user-friendly.

And National Journal, the magazine, will still issue its weekly print edition but with all of their new, top-tier reporting talent, the magazine aims to publish stories that Fournier says will “reframe the debate,” such as today’s cover story that features a lengthy interview with President Obama.

Hoping to target the growing segment of people who get their news through mobile devices, National Journal has also ramped up their mobile offerings, complete with a new, easy-to-use mobile website, and an iPad application that is currently still in development but expected to launch soon.

Throughout the summer, National Journal ramped up their staff and announced a string of high-profile hires, including top journalistic talent from Politico, USA Today, the Associated Press, the Atlantic, the Wall Street Journal, and more. Fournier himself came over to National Journal in June from the Associated Press, where he was previously Washington Bureau Chief.

When asked who he sees as the new National Journal’s biggest competitors, Fournier answered indirectly, saying that the biggest competitor he sees is “myself. The only thing I worry about when I get up in the morning is whether I’m up to the job.”

“Politico has their niche and they’re doing a great thing with it….but nobody is doing what we’ve been doing and plan to do even better, which is a really 360-degree coverage of politics, policy, and people… and bringing sophisticated analysis around sophisticated issues.”

“We’ve got to win the morning, we’ve got to win the afternoon, we’ve got to win the week, we’ve got to win the month, and we’ve got to win the year,” Fournier said.  “I don’t see anyone else trying to do all of that – I really think we’ve found a distinctive spot,” Fournier said.

With top tier reporters, a brand new free website, more breaking news, more long-form analysis, mobile apps, and a redesigned print magazine, it seems clear that National Journal wants to compete not just in a specific niche but wants to create their own niche and be the best at it. They want to compete with fast-paced blogs and websites, but they simultaneously want to compete with daily newspapers and weekly magazines.

But can they be everything to everyone? It’s a lofty goal, but Fournier believes they can do it. “We really think there’s a market for serious journalism,” he said. “There’s a market for really quality information, especially in an era when information has been cheapened and devalued.”

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Sunday editor, Mediaite