Politico’s John Harris on the brand’s global expansion plans

John Harris ()

With a career starting at Washington post, Harris has always placed a large focus on good story telling as well as valuable information.

Harris spoke yesterday at the FIPP World Congress in Toronto, about how Politico came to be a niche political magazine, noting that the idea for the publication came from asking themselves what was next for media.

Now, with its European expansion, it has aspirations to become a global brand with Axel Springer as their European partner.

Harris said they believed there was a robust future for both editorial content and business success, and there was a way tie those two things together.

Speaking about the Washington Post, Harris noted that it has a nice balance between politics, movies, sports and Hollywood. However to him, this business model has failed overall. He thought that narrowing the subject matter of the publication would be more successful.

“We went to a niche model instead,” said Harris. “You cannot come to Politico and read a word about what’s happening in Hollywood. We aimed to be good at two things; national politics and the creation of policies.”

Although they have expanded on the model idea, those main points are still what they focus on. Harris said that there are so many consumers but it’s difficult to monetise on those masses with broad information publications. To combat this problem, Harris says that they are not trying to build mass following but they’re trying to build intimacy with their consumers and be indispensable to that group.

Harris also discussed the work that goes into creating content that can have a premium cost. There are two ways to go about this said Harris; one is to produce content that is so valuable to the consumers that they’re willing to pay for the content. If the content is important enough and is hard to find elsewhere then consumers are more likely to pay more for this information.

Politico Pro is there premium information service. This subscription allows readers to gain access to articles that are not available on the regular website. Harris said that it is quite challenging to have people subscribe to this service do to the high yearly cost, but he noted that once people have subscribed the re-subscription rate is above 90 per cent.

Harris said that journalism that stands for excellence is key to business growth, he said that there is an audience for high quality long-form journalism when it is done right.

They also plan to expand to all capital cities in all American states and ensure that political stories are covered throughout the entire country. He believes that this will be beneficial since he thinks political issues don’t generally have enough coverage in many American states.

Finally, Harris spoke about the new partnership with Axel Springer, saying that there is a promising opportunity in Europe. Politico and Axel Springer share the same base journalistic values, Harris said that it is about moving forward since there is no going back to the old form of journalism.

“The key to what we do (in the United States) and (in Europe) is by being very focused on who we are and what we do well,” said Harris. “Were not trying to cover every story, we’re focused again on intimate relationships with our audience.”

Harris said it is more valuable to have a specific niche than it is to focus on being entertaining because there is always a risk of having someone more entertaining come along, however if your publication is seen as a necessity in the lives of your readers, you become more sustainable.

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