Most execs would be satisfied with a title and track record like Jacquelyn Cameron’s. In her role as Chief Revenue Officer at Axios, she oversees global sales, events and revenue enablement at the news organization, which reaches the most powerful people in politics and the Fortune 100 via 48 newsletters with 3.3 million newsletter subscribers and 20 million monthly uniques.

But the CRO, a 2024 Chief New Era of Leadership Award winner, isn’t shy about the job she ultimately wants: to be CEO of a media company.

Cameron has the industry experience to get there, with prior roles in media at The New York Times, The Washington Post and Politico. She also has the mentorship — of Axios Co-Founder and CEO Jim VandeHei, who applauds Cameron’s clarity in goal-setting for a top chief position. Cameron says she joined the organization, in part, for this kind of mentorship: to learn how decisions are made at the top and prepare for when she gets there.

“Something that was recommended to me a long time ago was that you'll never get what you cannot articulate,” Cameron says.

That kind of ambition isn’t always applauded in women, but VandeHei is such a fan of his CRO that he even featured her in a chapter of his New York Times bestseller “Just the Good Stuff.” On how to be a “master mentee,” he details the story of how Cameron bluntly asked him to teach her to be a CEO, praising her hunger, purpose, self-awareness, self-confidence and action. “It’s so much easier to mentor someone who cuts the BS and just admits to being ambitious,” he writes.

For her interview with Chief, Cameron’s direct, approachable style is noticeable from the top of the call, which she takes from Chief’s San Francisco Clubhouse space, where she is a member. Her tone is casual, her demeanor is warm, and her candor invokes the very sort of leadership style The New Era of Leadership Awards represents. She is personable, conversational, quick to make a connection. It’s easy to see how Cameron has excelled in the highest sales role at Axios, and under her leadership, the company has achieved 60% growth in events revenue year over year and continuous sustained growth over the past two and a half years despite a tumultuous market. If Axios has done well because of its ability to adapt in a constantly changing media market and evolve from the old publisher models that no longer work, perhaps Cameron has excelled because she’s a leader from a new class of younger, more flexible executive thinkers. 

Acknowledging the Publishing Problem

Solving the news industry’s problems is a tough nut to crack, and the outlook is, to put it mildly, rocky. The industry has shed jobs for decades. Paid subscriptions have declined after subsisting as the driving revenue model for some news outlets during the Trump administration.

At Axios, on the other hand, subscriptions and paid memberships have grown with the addition of Axios Local. The digital-only, subscription-newsletter publisher also diversified its revenue strategy by growing its events business and investing in 30 local news markets from Denver to Austin, to allow advertisers to support and underwrite local reporting, Cameron says.

Why is Axios investing in local news? For one, journalistic integrity in the era of misinformation and erosion of truth on social media. Axios stands out as a media outlet that hasn’t been bought by a billionaire from outside the industry — VandeHei was a political reporter before founding Politico and Axios, as was his co-founder Mike Allen. Now approaching 2 million subscribers for local news subscriptions, Axios Local has grown 30% year over year in 30 cities, with double the number of local advertisers in 2023 and a 214% increase in paid memberships from 2023 to 2024, metrics Cameron calls “astounding.”

The publisher has differentiated itself in how it presents content with its trademarked “Smart Brevity” format, designed to quickly inform professionals with the stories that matter. Highly influential people tend to be busy, and Axios’s flagship newsletter “Axios AM,” written by co-founder and award-winning journalist Allen, is read by the most influential people in business and government. To put that in shorthand: Organizing information for Axios’s readership of thought leaders (1 in 5 of whom are C-Suite level) includes a lot of bullet points.

“No other publication has brought to the table local news through Smart Brevity. We are doing it and it's just caught fire,” Cameron says.

As media literacy declines and machine learning and AI-generated content emerge on social media, Axios is also positioned as a solution to shrinking attention spans. Cameron says the key to the content philosophy is sharing what is new and why it matters, while respecting the time readers are willing to give rather than trying to manipulate them into spending more.

To further distinguish Axios’ offerings, Cameron says the business is focused on building readership around 22 topics, with newsletters written by its best journalists.

“In a world that is very soon to be littered with content that's written by AI, we are leaning heavily into subject matter expertise in surfacing individuals who bring an understanding of the topic that they're writing about that is unmatched,” Cameron says.

Trending Toward Live Programming

In April, Axios launched Communicators Pro, a successful premium paid membership tier for its Axios Communicators newsletter, and will debut two more premium tiers for other newsletters in 2024. These newsletter topics are covered by experts like Eleanor Hawkins, a former communications executive who writes the Axios Communicators newsletter, and Axios builds community around the expertise areas with opportunities for paid membership and ticketed revenue. In experimenting with different revenue models, Axios has found that high-level executives and decision makers are gravitating to events in a desire to connect in person, and has applied its Smart Brevity philosophy to live programming by leaving ticketed attendees smarter when they leave.

“We're sending up programming that adds value to their experience while they're there. And brands are very much looking to us to help connect them in a much more meaningful way — in a much more human way — to these influencers,” she says.

In June, Axios hosted Women’s Sports House in Cannes, the second event in a global event series titled TN50, a nod to the 50th anniversary of Title IX in 2022 as well as a forum to discuss the trends shaping the next 50 years of “the business of women’s sports.” Its speaker lineup featured world-renowned athletes like WNBA champion and Olympic Gold medalist Sue Bird, two-time soccer world champion Ashlyn Harris, and rapper and college basketball star Flau’jae Johnson. The first event in the TN50 series, the Business of Women’s Sports Summit, notched more than 1 billion impressions across press and social media, according to Axios.

“We've had such incredible audience impact,” Cameron says.