PoliticsHome was launched today by my former colleagues at 18 Doughty Street Stephan Shakespeare and Tim Montgomerie, along with its editor in chief Andrew Rawnsley. The site has already been reviewed by many others on the web (see below for some links) and each reviewer, in their own way makes some valid points. So let me add my own tuppenyworth.
The site was originally billed as a 'Bloomberg for Politics'. It's certainly that and then some. In many ways it's Bloomberg on steroids. The amount of information contained on the front page is impressively breathtaking. Some reckon there's too much to navigate easily and I have some sympathy with that, but I suspect it just takes some getting used to. I'm reminded of the quote from Amadeus: "Too many notes, Mr Mozart, too many notes!"
Comment has been made about the intense blackness of the design. I think it gives the site a certain gravitas but I am not so sure about the two vertical columns down either side of the main content. There are one or two design and technical issues, but the site is clearly billed as being in Beta mode, so those who have made instant criticisms should bear that in mind. However, one substantial criticism I have to make is that the site doesn't work on mobiles. It's exactly the sort of site which ought to be mobile compliant, so that busy people can catch up with what's going on in the political world when they are on the move. At the moment, all you get on your mobile is a list from the blog aggregator. This is a serious failing, but again, not difficult to put right.
Clearly, the most interesting part of this site is likely to be the daily polling of 100 or so politicos in Westminster. I say interesting, but perhaps I mean newsworthy. The aggregated newsfeeds are useful but no more than that. Perhaps the oddest thing of all is that despite the combined talents of Andrew Rawnsley, Martin Bright, Nick Assinder and Tim Montgomerie there is absolutely no original content on the site whatsoever. By using the name PoliticsHome one might reasonably expect the site to follow the successful model of ConservativeHome, which is not only a news aggregator site for the Conservative Party but also has a world view and commissions interesting, relevant and well researched comment pieces by a multitude of authors. PoliticsHome does none of these things and bends over backwards to be seen as politically neutral. Nothing wrong with that at all - indeed it's a prerequisite for a site like this - but the danger here is that neutrality turns into blandness. That's also the challenge which is about to be faced by Total Politics too.
Whenever anyone launches anything new there are always plenty of naysayers who give you twenty reasons why it's bound to fail. I genuinely hope it works not only as a site full of political gold, but also as a serious business proposition. It's not clear to me what the business model for this is as the site has no advertising (yet) and no obvious income stream. Perhaps that's where the polling side of it comes in.
So - a good start, a few quirks and glitches to iron out, but nothing which can't be easily solved. If the launch of the Total Politics Website in early June is as smooth I will be well pleased.
More reviews from Ben Brogan, Coffee House, Red Box, Scribo Ergo Sum, Puffbox, Three Line Whip, Donal Blaney, Hopi Sen