Already the top digital-first political news brand on the web, with 31 million unique monthly visitors, Nexstar's The Hill has expanded its reach through The Hill TV, providing premium digital video content across its website, on YouTube, and on its free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channel.
In April, The Hill debuted a new one-hour nightly program titled The Hill on NewsNation, the fastest growing news network on cable. And, The Hill print edition, long the authoritative source for law and policy makers on Capitol Hill, was reimagined with a bold, magazine-style design earlier this year.
Joe Ruffolo, who became Senior Vice President and General Manager for both The Hill and NewsNation Digital a month earlier, is thinking of other ways to deliver news to consumers that they can find with their thumbs -- that is to say, on their smartphones.
"I think it's a natural evolution to continue to build out all the ways that our users can interact with what The Hill does," Ruffolo (pictured) says. "Most of our users are increasingly experiencing us on mobile devices -- not that it should be a surprise -- so we're continuing to look at ways that we can elevate the content."
That may mean airing Rising, The Hill's opinion show with Robby Soave and Briahna Joy Gray, or What America's Thinking,a show exploring key trends and public opinion hosted byJulia Manchester and Rafael Bernal. Or it can mean creating shorter, bite-sized reporting easily consumable on a smartphone.
Staff from The Hill, including Editor in Chief Bob Cusack, Congressional Staff Writer Mychael Schnell and Race & Politics Reporter Cheyanne Daniels are available for interviews on the video platforms, but so are reporters from the 200 owned or partner local stations that are part of Nexstar Media Group, which owns both The Hill and NewsNation.
"Nexstar is the largest local station owner in the country, so it's a very powerful news gathering operation," Ruffolo says. "This gives us a huge opportunity to not just cover the same old stories, but to be thinking about it from a very local perspective, as well as how we can amplify all those different perspectives and stories across the country and really deliver the news that people want and need."
In addition to The Hill's politics and policy coverage, "there are economic issues or health issues or education issues and different things that are happening across the country that we want to continue to elevate and put a light on, to inform our audience," he explains.
Since it launched in March 2021, NewsNation has grown its audience significantly -- over 100 percent in just the past year, a time when established cable news networks like Fox News and CNN have declined.
It got a further boost when the nightly The Hill program premiered on NewsNation on April 24, growing viewers by 59 percent year-over-year for the 5 p.m. hour.
"That's been a huge success for us so far, and something we'll continue to build on as we go forward," Ruffolo says of the program.
Ruffolo has spent most of his career in the digital space since its infancy, starting at CNN and CNN Interactive, as it was called at the time. Later, he developed digital news at AOL, Nickelodeon, ABC News and most recently OceanX.
"News is definitely in my heart as my No. 1 passion," he said. "So, it was a great honor and an exciting opportunity to go back into news and to help develop and continue to grow such an enormous political brand."
And NewsNation, he adds, allows him to be "really thinking about what news networks can be in the future -- really looking at it from the perspective of news for all America. With both The Hill and NewsNation, our goal is to be nonpartisan and to really cover news from a different perspective, and to really bring all the Nexstar assets into play."
Remaining nonpartisan in a partisan time is always a challenge, Ruffolo says. "But I think if you really focus on what the news is and what the story is -- and stay true to our clear mandate as an organization, with such a fantastic group of journalists and people across the company -- you're not always going to be perfect on these types of things, but we try."
The most important thing is making sure the news is right, he asserts.
"We can figure out how to use this technology in different ways or make that come to life for people," Ruffolo concludes. "But we just really need to stick to what we do best, which is news, politics and policy. And then we can figure out all the different avenues to make that come to life for people across the country and in every community we serve."
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