Angelo received his hands-on Internet education when Murdoch plucked him from the Post to edit the Daily, an iPad-only hybrid of magazine and newspaper to which Murdoch gave a $30 million annual budget. Angelo had developed the Post’s iPad app, but creating content for an omnivorous stand-alone daily publication was terra incognita. Still, Angelo tells me, “I jumped at it. How many times in your life do you get to do a start-up?” He set up a command post in a corner of the Post’s newsroom, tucked behind a little wall with shiny new computers, the envy of the newsroom. He was, for the first time in a decade, out from under Allan’s direct control. Some said that Allan appeared irritated at Angelo’s elevation—addressing a group of editors at the time, Allan remarked with mock formality, “Mr. Angelo couldn’t be with us today. He’s working on a special project.”
But it didn’t take long for the number crunchers to rebel. “The finance people told Rupert he couldn’t keep losing money on all these things,” says a News Corp. insider. “He wasn’t going to close the Post, so he closed the Daily.” In its 22-month life, the Daily claimed to be the most-subscribed-to publication in the Apple Store’s newsstand, though when it came to actual business, its principal boast was, We lose less money than the Post. “The business didn’t turn out to be what we and many other publishers thought it was going to be,” says Angelo.
But the demise of the Daily was barely a speed bump in Angelo’s ascent. Indeed, the Daily proved a career accelerator, helping Angelo rebrand himself—he was now a digital guy, something that the Twitter-loving Murdoch realized he desperately needed.
A month after the Daily’s demise, Angelo was named CEO and publisher of the Post, and as he moved to the top of the masthead—in front of his former boss, Allan—the tenor of the Post’s newsroom changed. Allan was a fierce, caustic boss who preferred ruling from his office—“You can call Col feisty,” allows Angelo. With a hangover, he was the scariest thing many a Post employee had ever seen, regularly booting editors out of editorial meetings for any perceived infraction.
Angelo is his diametrical opposite. He is even-tempered and private—he lifts his bottle of Poland Spring as we chat about Allan’s penchant for nighttime revels. Angelo doesn’t yell—“Jesse doesn’t like to be seen as bad guy. Ever,” says one of his employees. Reporters who have worked for Angelo admire him, even if he doesn’t inspire love. He is the hardest-working editor, says one colleague. Most important to journalists, he “didn’t let the shit roll downhill.” Some editors passed Allan’s abuse along to their journalists. Angelo insulated them.
Once installed, Angelo quickly adjusted the Post’s course. His watchword was “web-first.” Allan was resigned to the digital future but hardly happy with the development and irritated at the new balance of power. “You’re not my boss,” he once told Angelo, according to several sources, though Allan denies making this remark.
In July of this year, Allan was shipped off to Australia, where he was supposed to energize the company’s 120 newspapers and in particular the papers’ campaign to dump Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a onetime Allan friend who’d fallen out of favor with Murdoch—which he did successfully. During this period, Angelo temporarily served as editor-in-chief, and with Allan gone, Angelo accelerated the pace of change. He hired a national sales manager, a web-only creature who’s “never sold a newspaper ad,” he boasts. He reorganized the newsroom around the rhythms of the digital world. Angelo moved the morning editorial meeting from 11 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., since morning readership on the web spikes at about 9:30. Angelo thinks of readers as “clients” and makes sure that his journalists are attuned to client needs.
“We have screens up in the newsroom showing in live time metrics on the site,” he says. In this, Angelo is representative of the new News Corp. executive class. Allan viewed himself as a pirate who went with his gut. Angelo prides himself on being competent and prescient, not bucking the tide but getting ahead of it. For him, it’s “metrics and analytics” that ought to guide editorial coverage. “Using metrics as part of our editorial conferences is being implemented too,” he tells me.
Angelo hired Remy Stern, a Gawker alumnus, to help relaunch the Post’s website, which Angelo described as “without great design or back end.” Angelo’s digital Post is designed as a visual rather than reading experience, and it’s an impressively radical transformation. It resembles a movie poster more than a newspaper, a series of photographs with headlines. “If you look at the data, if you look at what readers want, they want photos. Sometimes video,” explains Stern. Stern was encouraged by the early response. In the past year, nypost.com has been visited by about 7 million people per month, according to Comscore, a web-traffic service. After the September 5 relaunch, traffic jumped more than 12 percent, according to the Post’s internal tracking. It was a good early showing, though rival nydailynews.com still attracts about twice as many online visitors as the Post.