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April 4, 2023, 1:38 p.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   April 4, 2023

A news organization shuts down, and its writers move to Substack while they’re trying to decide what to do next: We’ve seen that before. This time the story has a twist: A former editor of Politico’s now-defunct tech site, Protocol, has bought a chunk of the company’s email list and is launching an independent, ad-supported news site with it.

Protocol, the technology news site that Politico founder Robert Allbritton launched in 2020 and then sold to Axel Springer along with Politico in 2021, shut down abruptly last November, laying off its 60-person staff. Its enterprise editor, Tom Krazit — who, all the disclosures, was my editor at Gigaom until 2015 when that site abruptly shut down, and who has been covering the tech industry for 20 years — launched a Substack while considering what to do next. He launched and ran Protocol’s enterprise and cloud computing newsletter, and eventually managed five writers before the shutdown.

Krazit bought the email list for that newsletter, including more than 20,000 subscribers, from Politico Media Group in February. Today, he’s relaunching it as Runtime. (“The folks at Politico Media Group wanted me to make clear that Runtime is in no way associated with Politico or Protocol, and, for the record, I am extremely happy to make that distinction,” Krazit noted in his launch post.)

The Runtime newsletter will come out three times a week, and an accompanying website will include a mix of long-form reporting, interviews, and explorations of emerging technologies. “You can’t drop a 1500-word report in a newsletter unless you’re Ben Thompson,” Krazit said, explaining the need for the website. “I’m not going to try to get away with that right off the bat.”

Runtime will be free to read and ad-supported; Krazit is its only full-time employee for now, and he’s hired some help with ad sales. Eventually, Krazit plans to hire more reporters, but he didn’t want to raise VC money. “I don’t want to promise anybody a job in these crazy times without being sure I can support that person beyond a short period,” he said.

The newsletter is launching on the publishing platform Ghost, which has emerged as a Substack competitor and hosts properties including The Atlantic’s subscriber-only newsletters, Luke O’Neil’s Welcome to Hell World, and David Sirota’s The Lever. “Substack is really nice. I’ve been doing a blog slash newsletter for the last few months, and I really like a lot of the things they offer, but they as a business seem very clearly geared around paid subscription,” Krazit said. “There are people on there who have sponsorship business models, but those don’t really seem aligned with [Substack’s] long term view.” Ghost, in his view, made more sense for an ad-supported newsletter.

Krazit added that enterprise reporting — which he defined simply for me as “writing about the business of businesses selling technology to other businesses” — is a unique space, advertising-wise, compared to consumer-focused tech reporting. “People who read this kind of content are reading it for business reasons, not so much for their own personal interests,” he said. “Runtime kind of has the luxury of being in a market where people want and need the kind of quality, in-depth journalism I’ve always wanted to provide. And there is a ton of sponsor interest in this market.”

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