The morning newsletter’s co-authors chatted about change, community and why Playbook is right for you.
Exit the Farragut West metro station last Friday morning and you would have had to push your way past a crowd filing into a line down K Street. Upon first glance, it looked like these early risers were spending their morning coffee breaks waiting to test the city’s hottest new food truck. With closer inspection, you would have seen something even more exciting: the instantly recognizable caricatures of Anna Palmer and Jake Sherman, plastered across the side of the truck under the words “Politico Playbook.” Their faces presented themselves in person, too, cheerily handing egg sandwiches, breakfast burritos and coffee to the waiting crowd.
Palmer and Sherman took over the indispensable piece of the Politico brand from pioneer Mike Allen just two months ago, and have since rolled out a long list of changes and new features, with assistance from Daniel Lippman. Photos, interviews and an upcoming 90-second audio “flash briefing” are just a few examples.
The basis for these changes? “We wanted Playbook to reflect who we are,” said Sherman. “We’re of this generation, the iPhone generation, so we wanted a product that felt current and not like you’re reading something that looks like it came out of 2008.”
The flash briefings stem from community feedback, something the pair take seriously. “You can’t imagine how many people have come up to us to say how they wish they could listen to Playbook,” said Sherman.
Their appreciation of the Playbook community is what gave way to the day’s food truck, said Palmer. “We wanted to come and do something fun and thank our readers for being part of this community, because they’re so important to us,” she said. It was clear from the line just how great that community is, and I was told equally sizable lines appeared the two previous mornings when the journalists took the truck to Capitol Hill on Wednesday and Union Station on Thursday.
Although the Playbook food truck’s stint is over for now, fans have plenty of more events to look forward to. The truck is one of many smaller and well-curated events that the pair have been pulling off recently, like last week’s sold-out cocktail hour with civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis at the W Hotel. This week, they will meet with theSkimm’s co-founders Danielle Weisberg and Carly Zakin for a discussion at Twitter’s D.C. headquarters.
I told the duo it is unexpected they would host an event with theSkimm, a company that also fights to deliver fast, accessible news. Palmer and Sherman, however, are confident that Playbook stands ahead of the curve. This fall, they will launch Playbook Plus, a website on which they can post the most up-to-date news for readers that did not make it in the morning’s brief but is too important to hold off on until the next.
As the food truck’s last morning winded down, I confessed something to Palmer and Sherman: I am interested in politics, but I definitely do not call myself a political junkie. I asked them, is Playbook still for me?
“Yes!” Sherman assured me.
Palmer told me to think of Playbook and Politico as “the ESPN of politics: easily-digestible, understandable, and a place to have fun where we can take you into rooms that you otherwise aren’t going be able to get into.”
“Of course we were created for the obsessives,” said Sherman, “but the great thing about Playbook is so many other types of people have come along, and ultimately that’s what has made the brand great.”