FIPP World Congress 2022 – 10 insights for future of publishing
Hundreds of media and publishing leaders from around the world gathered in sunny Cascais in Portugal in June at the FIPP World Congress 2022 to share what they had learned in the last three years. And to enjoy some in person networking in the glorious Portuguese seaside town. These were my top ten insights for the future of the global publishing industry.
1. Building a new culture and leadership for growth
The pandemic accelerated digital disruption, and we are now emerging into a highly volatile business environment. Lucy Kueng believes this calls for a new style of leadership. Teams are burned out and demoralised, and leaders must be sensitive to this. Identify and nurture the talent in your organisation, providing development, recognition, and support. Use analytics to understand your audiences better than anyone else. Build trust as the foundation to ultimately grow revenues.
Yulia Boyle, VP at National Geographic and incoming FIPP Chair, made the business case for geographic, ethnic, gender and generational diversity across the media and publishing sector. A broader cross section of cultures and experiences will build stronger media brands.
2. Engagement beats reach
Mass media business models built purely on scale and free, ad-funded content are starting to falter. Businesses built around magazine brands serving specialist audiences who are enthusiastic about quality content will be more resilient. Brian Morrissey of The Rebooting lauded the personal connection that simple email newsletters provide. Newsletters create a more tailored, human experience, that builds slowly but results in engagement and loyalty.
Elizabeth Deeming of Future made the business case for building trust with your audience based on independent, quality content, avoiding clickbait and nurturing communities. Katie Vanneck-Smith, co Founder of Tortoise knew they could not compete on volume of articles. Instead they involve members in Think Ins and creating more intimate podcast investigations.
3. Datawalls, paywalls and the value of light users
Media businesses must charge for digital content or die, claimed Juan Senor of Innovation Media Consulting. The next generation of paywalls will be flexible and intelligent, treating different segments of customers differently. But it is possible to combine advertising and reader revenue. A smart publisher can run data walls or registration walls that track audience behaviour and target advertising. Nurture your light users and a number will eventually migrate to paid subscriptions.
With James Mayes, Founder of Mind The Product, I ran a workshop on how to research new digital subscription products that meet users’ needs and create strong businesses.
4. Modern digital storytelling
Smart publishers are experimenting with new forms of digital storytelling. Zetland create audio versions of all their articles, and now 80% are consumed as audio. Mondadori have developed GialloZafferano, their food brand, with short video recipes designed for sharing on TikTok and Instagram, taking the food brand to 500m video views a month. A large part of this success has been collaboration with >100 independent creators. Independent publisher Review of Religions set up a video vox pop in the US entitled “I’m a Muslim – Ask me anything” and reached 7 million views on You Tube.
5. Targeting new audiences
The FT has set out to use podcasts to reach a younger audience, and to grow awareness in the US, according to Alastair Mackie, Head of Digital Development. Content is designed specifically for this new audience, rather than being based on the print content, which has an older audience. The main FT News Briefing is published at 5am every weekday (London time) to create a habit among financial traders as they wake up. Podcast listens have grown by 43% in a year, and now reach 900k downloads a month. Plus sponsorship revenues are strong. 60% of FT listeners are not FT subscribers and their average age is 35. Tortoise has also used podcasts and audio journalism to reach a younger demographic than most news media.
6. Keeping pricing simple
Will Page, former Chief Economist of Spotify, believes that news and media organisations are not achieving their potential for digital subscriptions by a factor of 10. Too many offers are complex and confusing for audiences, with multiple price points. And many deliberately make it harder to cancel a subscription than to sign up. By contrast, Spotify has one price, 9.99 a month, in pounds, dollars and euros, that has been the same for twenty years. It’s as easy to cancel as it is to subscribe.
7. Why membership builds loyalty
Tortoise felt it couldn’t compete with traditional newsrooms on volume of articles, so had to nurture engagement and the personal touch, and went for a membership model. Most members join via referral by existing members or are “invited” by podcast hosts. The audio format provides a greater sense of intimacy or personality than pure text. Members can also influence the topics covered via in person or virtual Think Ins.
8. The opportunity of B2B enterprise subscriptions
For publishers who already have a base of paid individual subscribers, enterprise subscriptions can be a lucrative revenue source. Aled John and George Montague of FT Strategies shared some practical tips from the FT’s own experience. A first step is to collect company name and job title from your registered users and subscribers and identify organisations with a core of loyal users who might appreciate an Enterprise deal. FT charges on a usage basis, so they encourage visitors to check whether their company has an enterprise or B2B subscription. When they start accessing premium content, this increases the user base for the next renewal.
9. Learning about web3, metaverse, NFTs
Axel Springer have transformed from a traditional print publisher into a predominantly digital media business in the last 20 years. Chair Ralph Buchi counsels a similarly forward-looking approach to the metaverse, web 3, and NFTs. Yes, it is an early stage and there may be too much hype. But experimenting now will accelerate learning for when it takes off.
The rise of the creator economy is a threat to traditional media brands. Springer’s Polish business has engaged with 250 content creators on a revenue share to bring their content into the group. Mondadori has taken a similar approach with its food video brand, GialloZafferano, creating “win-win” collaboration with 100 food creators. Mondadori are also experimenting with NFTs, creating an exclusive series of classic Italian recipes bundled with masterclasses with the celebrity chefs who created them.
10. Collaboration vs competition
Collaboration was a clear theme. Traditional media businesses are collaborating with the new generation of content creators (eg Mondadori above). There is a smart initiative by Indian magazine publishers to collectively set up home delivery and subscription distribution channels in a vast country from scratch. Will Page also pointed out that many media brands are complementary – just as when gin sales rise, so do those of tonic. He shared stats to show that users of the Wall Street Journal had greatest cross over with users of their long-time competitor, the New York Times.
So maybe publishers have more to gain from collaborating than competing amongst themselves. Certainly, a sentiment that global membership organisation FIPP would support!
If you’d like to chat through some of the ideas raised at FIPP Congress do get in touch for a conversation over a real or virtual coffee.
About the author
Carolyn Morgan has acquired, launched, built, and sold specialist media businesses in print, digital and events. She now advises niche consumer and B2B publishers on developing new products and digital revenue streams as a consultant and NED.