What We Learned From Mike Allen’s Playbook AMA

Allen answers [some] questions on Reddit.

Politico Playbook creator and author Mike Allen hosted a Reddit Ask Me Anything today, giving readers a chance to get their questions in before the tipsheet’s imminent transfer to a new generation of authors.

On matters of sponsorship

The top question was from a user named Echoey, who asked whether Allen or Politico had “been paid to insert any blurbs into Playbook that weren’t explicitly ads.”

Allen’s response:

No. Under a system we invented way back when Playbook took its first ad, sponsor copy is set off by asterisks and begin by saying something like “a message from,” so no reader can be confused.

An earlier questioner asked Playbook’s most embarrassing mistake, then the post was deleted. So I’ll answer here: We try to double-check our SPOTTED items, where political figures are observed doing something interesting around town. (Playbookers are everywhere.) And usually we know and trust the SPOTTers. But every once in a while, one goes awry. One time we used one about James Carville and Mary Matalin, when they were in a different city. Hard to imagine what other couple someone mistook them for. Behind the curtain: People occasionally anonymously SPOT themselves.

This did not satisfy Echoey, who responded back with a link from a 2013 piece in The Washington Post from Erik Wemple, who had written then that a “review of ‘Playbook’ archives shows that the special interests that pay for slots in the newsletter get adoring coverage elsewhere in the playing field of ‘Playbook.'”

There was no follow-up from Allen at the time of this writing.

Another user wanted to know whether Allen had “ever refused to have a certain ad in Playbook.”

“Our talented, hardworking colleagues on the business side make those determinations. I don’t remember an instance like this, but something may have been nipped in the bud before I heard about it,” Allen replied.

On matters of sleep

Allen’s sleep habits are an enduring curiosity, considering the hours he puts in. Here is what he had to say about that [emphasis ours].

I actually get more sleep that the urban myth suggests. Arianna [Huffington] says I need more, but I’d say I usually sneak in five or six hours, with more on weekends. I go to bed as soon as I’m home from anything I go to in the evening, then try to get up 3ish. I haven’t owned an alarm since college: I just wake up when the time is right. I’m fortunate that I love my work. Today is the 3,296th consecutive edition of Playbook, and there’s never been a single morning that I didn’t leap out of bed, excited to serve our amazing community.

What we didn’t learn

To multiple requests for info about Allen’s next venture, Allen responded, multiple times, along similar line to this response to a user who also asked Allen about changes to Playbook following Allen’s departure:

Thank you for the encouragement — your message made me feel good. I’ll miss the seven-day-a-week connection with Playbookers like you. My successors — Anna Palmer, Jake Sherman and Daniel Lippman — have great plans to refresh the format. People ask my advice for them, and I always say: Sound like yourself. They’ll be successful because Playbook will reflect THEM — just as Brussels Playbook works because it sounds like Ryan Heath, Morning Money reflects the passions of Ben White, Florida Playbook channels Marc Caputo. I’m honored to be at Politico through the election, then will help start a new media company next year.

We do agree that “sound like yourself” is great advice.

Asked and unanswered

Some of the questions that did not receive a response included: “do you and/or Daniel actually read all of the ‘Great weekend reads?'”; “Do you think that Politico’s focus on who is ‘winning the day’ has elevated or diminished political journalism?”; and, in reference to a few Playbook-related controversies past

Many in the journalism world have taken exception to tactics you’ve used in the Playbook newsletter, including:

promising to only ask pre-approved questions in an interview with Chelsea Clinton
assuring staff members of Capitol Hill lawmakers that interviews would be “no surprises”
permitting top Clinton advisor Phillipe Reines to ghost-write a Playbook item about the State Department

Looking back, do you regret any of these choices?

Check out the entire AMA here.

Publish date: June 30, 2016 https://dev.adweek.com/digital/what-we-learned-from-mike-allens-playbook-ama/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT