James Hewes

Tapping into trends in the publishing industry By Piet van Niekerk

A number of the most dominant trends publishers have been grappling with are also presenting the greatest opportunities to profit from disruption, says James Hewes, President and CEO of FIPP. In his talk at IFRA World Publishing Expo he will focus on how publishers can use and roll-out these trends within their products and services.

 Identifying trends in publishing is one thing. Responding to it in a proactive and positive way, however, is the key to long term success. This is why since taking over as President and CEO of FIPP in September last year, James Hewes has stepped up FIPP’s role as an advocate for responding to and taking advantage of the opportunities arising from a changing publishing world.

“We cannot be a passive organisation, especially not in a disruptive industry. FIPP not only needs to maintain relevance but understand and reflect what the biggest concerns of our members are. Through collaboration we can respond and profit from change.”

Talent and culture

Hewes highlights “the most important issue facing publishing businesses at the moment”, which is managing talent and culture. “What publishers are contending with is how to attract and retain the most talented people in the face of competition from businesses that are perceived as being more attractive to work for, such as platforms and startups.”

While training and developing new skill sets for an ever changing and disruptive industry are at the centre of this challenge, matters relating to diversity of staff is becoming just as important. “When thinking about diversity both from an economic point of view and a moral point of view, a diverse workforce can help build new networks of talent, ideas and provides better solutions from a leadership point of view.”

Not only have these matters been discussed with great intensity at FIPP’s annual Congress last year as well as this year’s Digital Innovators’ Summit, industry players have managed to respond successfully by investing in people and improving corporate culture. “Publishers are constantly asking themselves how they can create a work environment that allows business to take advantage of the huge changes that are happening in technology and across the publishing industry. The evidence shows that they are succeeding.”

Print is back!

Another positive trend is the fact that print is back, says Hewes. “The industry is starting to realise that the worst is behind us in terms of the decline in print magazines. We can now see what print’s long term place in the media mix is and people have woken up to the qualities of print. It is trusted in an environment where online content is less trusted. It is luxurious and consumed slowly. It lingers in the consumer household.”

Even more importantly, this is being understood by marketeers, which means advertisers are returning to quality printed magazines.

The elephant in the room

Even dealing with the so-called 'elephant in the room' - Facebook - FIPP has stepped into the ring to bring clarity and engagement in what many might have perceived as an unassailable situation. “Publishers will never make the mistake (again) of relying on a single platform for content discovery and business opportunities.”

There is, in fact, an upside emerging from the troubles Facebook encountered recently, explains Hewes. “Facebook are now more open to dialogue than ever before. They are prepared to interact with us in a personal way and we need to take advantage of this. At FIPP we believe that only by having a sustained conversation as an industry will we be able to deliver change that will benefit all. Positive engagement has already taken place between Facebook and the FIPP Board with the intention to continue a regular dialogue.”

An innovative future

Many more trends are reshaping the future of publishing, says Hewes. These include how publishers are taking advantage of opportunities to increase subscriptions, monetise from reader revenues and become increasingly independent from advertising though e-commerce and events. Publishers have also embraced opportunities to profit from platforms, whether this be through video, voice or podcasts.

“At every level publishers are showing a willingness to adapt to change, even in the face of more disruption." Hewes references the emergence of AI or blockchain as examples. These developments are no longer being perceived as threats but rather opportunities. Blockchain is seen as having the potential to assist publishers with efficient payment systems and AI can be utilised to provide overarching data strategies and personalisation of content.

“Most positively, we have reached the era of embracing disruption.”

James Hewes, President and CEO of FIPP, will be a speaker at this year’s World Publishing Expo & Digital Content Expo as part of a new cooperation agreement between FIPP, the Network for Global Media, and WAN-IFRA, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers: TUE, 9 October 2018, 12:30 - 13:00


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