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Peter Schorsch is at again with Influence, a first look

Influence cover
Whatever one thinks of Peter Schorsch, and he is indeed a controversial figure, no one can deny that he has been an innovative leader of Florida's New Media. Again and again Schorsch sees an opening and grabs it - profitably.

As Florida newspapers continue layoffs, struggle to grab audience share, and push shrinking newsrooms to do more with less, Schorsch grabs money-making, staff building opportunities that newspaper owners can't seem to fathom.

Schorsch's latest effort is a quarterly magazine called Influence. The first issue appears Monday. Crowley Political Report was given an advance, review copy of the 136 page magazine.

In his introduction to the magazine Schorsch writes:

During the 2012 election cycle, about $404 million was spent by Florida candidates and political committees. Although that figure doesn’t include what Barack Obama and Mitt Romney dished out, it’s still a healthy number. A lot of political consultants built beach houses in Cedar Key and Destin with what they earned that year.

During the same period, more than $425 million was spent by over 2,500 companies, trade associations, local governments, and unions to influence the 160 members of the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott’s administration.

In other words, much more money is spent to influence lawmakers than to elect them.

Schorsch is right but Influence does not appear to be an attempt to report about unscrupulous lobbyists, or shenanigans in the Capitol. Instead, Influence seems to be the GQ of the Tallahassee's increasingly wealthy lobbyists.

On these pages, you’ll get to know many of the powerful figures behind the quotes you’ve read.

As a New Media entrepreneur, a lot of old media owners could learn from Schorsch. When Politico's Mike Allen started a national political newsletter emailed each morning with ads between items, Schorsch grabbed the idea and started Sunburn which has become a must read (even though Schorsch has strayed too far from his original Florida focus).

Schorsch has even gobbled some of Florida's failed political websites, such as Context Florida, and made them and their veteran Florida writers part of his stable.

Influence is clearly a gamble at a time when magazines and newspaper print edition continue to see a decade long drop in advertising revenue. 

And one has to wonder if the audience is too narrow - lobbyists in Tallahassee talking about themselves. 

Still, this is an impressive effort.

Crowley Political Report asked Schorsch about his plans:

What is the market?                                  

The market is the 25,000 to 50,000 people very interested in Florida politics. It's for the people who enjoy Sunday editorial pages and watch Meet The Press.

What are your circulation targets?

First run is 10,000. Hoping for a second run and then a larger run with the next edition.

Many new pubs are filled with ads that are largely giveaways....did you offer cheap/free to get it launched and will ad rates go up?

We only gave away ads to just one or two advertisers on our digital networks. It was just to prime the pump. However, after we showed the first 40 pages to potential advertisers, the idea of giving away space quickly went away. We expect as rates to increase and then stabilize.

Is the first issue profitable?

The first issue is profitable.

What are your revenue targets?

(not answered)

How will you distribute?

We are direct mailing to the lobby corps and association leaders. We have deals in place to circulate the magazine at Tallahassee hotels, such as The Duval.

Much of the copy seems fresh, some appears to be rehash from what has already appeared on your sites, are you concerned about staleness?

 90% of the content is brand new. The only content from the digital platforms was content that deserved to be memorialized. The next issue will have less of that and more long form journalism, such as larger reports from Mitch Perry and Christine Sexton.

Why quarterly?

 (not answered)

I know some of the folks featured are also your clients....do they get special treatment?

 We specifically avoided featuring our most substantial strategic partners, such as Southern Strategy Group and Bascom Communications. The most significant profiles are of those we don't have a relationship with. For example, this was the first time I really got to talk with Ron Book.

 Also, most of the content here by Sexton, James Call, Florence Snyder is from respected journalists who would have walked away had special treatment been offered. 

 So to answer, no special treatment was given. But I am positioning INFLUENCE to be a booster for an industry which is often maligned.

 And why do you think Florida newspapers, which are looking for new revenue sources - have not tried this?

As for the last question, traditional news media is largely in the dark about the role of Influencers in the process. The first instinct is to demonize them because they see all this money and they think that's what it's all about. But that can't be true because there is often enormous money on both sides of an issue. If it was only about money, we wouldn't be having the current debate about gambling -- there's already be casinos.

I want to shed some light and offer some insight into what is really the most powerful section of society -- a fifth or sixth estate if you will.

 

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