Arist von Harpe is the owner and publisher of the Hamburg Morgenpost (MOPO). Looking for a business model that he could wholeheartedly stand behind, Arist left his job as an IT-Manager and made a decision that stunned Hamburg.
Having initially studied engineering, Arist von Harpe has worked in various industries all over the world. After gaining years of experience when working for companies such as Boston Consulting Group (BCG), AOL, Facelift, and Xing, Arist stunned people when he decided to buy a local newspaper in Hamburg, the Hamburger Morgenpost (MOPO). (1:49)
Of course, you don’t wake up in the morning and say ‘Yeah, I want to buy a newspaper’, that’s not how it was.Arist von Harpe
Arist credits his decision for purchasing the well-known newspaper as a reason to find a business that he could wholeheartedly support. With the strike of the Coronavirus pandemic, Arist has had to shift some aspects within the company — from the Editor in Chief to the rise of their pop culture presence.
Listen to this episode of “Off the Record” to discover how and why Arist made the bold decision to buy a newspaper. His story is one that will inspire you to make a bold move, even if it is unexpected to the public.
Buying the MOPO (4:13)
Though Arist von Harpe had made a successful name for himself in the fields that he was working in, he strived for something that was more entrepreneurial and where he really supported the business model.
Looking for something where he could wake up in the morning and say “this is good,” Arist became aware that the Hamburg Morgenpost was being sold. The old publishing house DuMont was looking for a new buyer, and this was when Arist’s interest became more serious.
Ever since he moved to Hamburg, Arist saw that the Hamburg Morgenpost (MOPO) was a special kind of newspaper, one that isn’t so conservative. Not knowing of any other publications similar to the MOPO, Arist braved the jump and decided to purchase it.
In the first place, I didn’t really look at ‘Well, is this the industry that will grow?’ It was more, ‘okay, this is the place I want to be in, and does this work from a business perspective?’Arist von Harpe
However, getting from the idea of buying the MOPO to actually go through the stages of purchasing it took place in a very non-linear way. Many negotiations were passed, but at the end, Arist sat there by himself and signed on as the new owner.
Criticism Surrounding the Decision (11:07)
After buying the MOPO, Arist found that a lot of people were stunned by his decision. However, people that know him privately credited the decision as a good one, as they saw how well he fitted the brand.
As Arist did not make the move because the Excel spreadsheets looked good, but rather because of the feeling he received from the brand, there was no real criticism. Of course, some people did say that it would not work. But Arist is hopeful that the future will be successful.
The Effects of Covid-19 (13:02)
Arist von Harpe bought the MOPO in February 2020, just a few months before Covid-19 set the world into the infamous lockdown season. Was the timing good or bad?
Well, according to Arist, as lockdown came, the usual publication process did not change drastically. Directly at 6:30 AM the first topics are collected, followed by a meeting at 11 AM and 3 PM to discuss what topics will be published and what will come on the front page. During the entire time, the editorial team is deciding the positioning of the stories, where they will appear, and what will be mentioned.
With lockdown, the only differing factor was that the employees were now working from home. However, many external screens were handed out, so that people could work in the same setting that they were familiar with within the office.
Of course, you need to motivate people.Arist von Harpe
As the pandemic is one that is taking place all over the world, the journalism industry did not have to take a strong hit, as a news story can be currently found all over.
Future Expectations from the Publishing Industry (17:14)
The main aspect where the publishing industry might have gotten a strong hit was the fact that many brands stopped their media spend. Any media offering that is dependent on advertising sales is placed under strong pressure.
Some cities were known for having newspapers handed out for free to people in public transportation. However, through stay-at-home orders, this market went away. This does not only have an effect on the newspapers themselves, but also on the advertising channels found within the newspaper that is handed out.
For any other newspapers that are relying on a hybrid revenue model from the reads and have advertising revenue streams, the pandemic is less of a problem.
From my perspective, the model that seems to work out in the best way is the hybrid or this freemium model. So you have the news for free but you always have a plus offering where you get the entire content for a small monthly subscriptionArist von Harpe
More and more publishers are looking into developing into this line of business, as it is more stable and there is no need to rely on the revenue taken in from advertising spots.
Additional Editions to the MOPO (21:04)
After Arist started at MOPO, he switched up the editions that are offered on specific days. Not only is it a difficult task to produce a newspaper every day, but Arist also found that the Sunday newspaper sells a lot less than the other days. With this, the decision came to just offer a one-weekend edition that has a great variety of information, which is sold on Saturday and Sunday. This decision was successful.
As this edition contains much more information than the typical daily newspaper, it is called the “Dicke MOPO” (translated into the thick MOPO), as it typically makes up 76 pages.
Pop Culture Influences through Merchandise (29:10)
I personally feel that this brand MOPO is very strong. It’s very well known in Hamburg, it’s a very sympathetic brand.Arist von Harpe
The Hamburger MOPO teamed up with the crew at Inferno Ragazzi to create a college-style jacket to reflect the brand. While the jacket is currently only a mock-up, it-guy and recent writer at the MOPO, Micky Beisenherz, already got to wear it.
The articles Micky writes are published with a photo of him wearing the jacket, in order to create some hype towards the product and gain momentum for eventually selling it.
Staying in the cultural side of the MOPO, MOPOP was created as a cultural spin-off. MOPOP looks at three Unique Selling Points (USP): 1) the local journalism of what is happening in Hamburg, 2) presenting the two polarized football clubs in Hamburg, and 3) pop culture.
While MOPOP has been around since the 90s, it was decided that the newspaper venture would be expanded out into more cultural aspects that also surround the city of Hamburg.
It is not only interesting to read for people who are into pop culture, but Arist sees it as a way to make the newspaper more sticky for the consumer. Currently, the MOPOP is taking place on Thursdays in print and online.
The Success of XING (38:15)
For Arist, the reason why XING is so successful is because the German-speaking market is a considerably big market and there is a lot of business done within Germany itself. From a professional point of view, there is no need to go to a platform such as LinkedIn with all the different cultural influences.
Creative Outlook for the MOPO (44:59)
Creatives makes up at least 80% of what I am doing.Arist von Harpe
Through having to look at the various revenue streams and seeing where there is room for optimization, creativity is a great part of Arist’s day-to-day. As the team that works for the MOPO is quite small compared to other publishing houses, the lack of resources encourages the employees to be more creative.
Currently working on a new model to push print sales, the whole team is developing the new idea in a very creative and innovative way.
The idea of the model orients around the local aspect for why people will want to buy a newspaper. Arist got inspired by a conversation he had with a lady at a gas station in Hamburg, as she stated what newspaper people prefer to read in that neighborhood.
Listen to the Full Story
Are you interested in learning how to follow Arist’s path?
Check out the advice he gave when asked our three questions!
#1 What do you think all marketers should know?
They should know a lot. All marketers should really know what their customers or potential customers want — what are their real needs? I feel very often people think that they know what their customers want but they don’t really know. There has always been a gap between what they think and what the reality is.
It’s important to take off your internal sunglasses in a company, and stop thinking our company and products are the best and forcing people to buy the product.
#2 What do you think every brand should stop doing right now?
I wouldn’t say they should stop something, but I would recommend a brand to focus on their brand more than just trying to sell something. Having a strong brand is much more powerful than having the right method for performance ads.
#3 If you could spend €1,000 on a marketing campaign, what would you do?
It depends. We have a very strong brand, so there isn’t so much where we can spend money on the brand, except for continuing to deliver a good product. Right now, I am spending more money on performance and pushing brand marketing in supermarkets, for example, because this is one of the only places that are open.
Something else that we have done, is we spent money on radio. It’s completely opposite to what we are doing. Basically, they buy media space from us and we buy media space from them.
Listen to the answers above:
Off the Record — Conversations on the Creative Landscape is brought to you by Cherrydeck and is hosted by Philipp Baumgaertel, today’s guest was Arist von Harpe, and the music is provided by Era Beats.