Bo Sacks on the FIPP World Congress

To me this event is what all other magazine association events should strive to be – totally and wonderfully inclusive, and not at all exclusive. It is for all publishers no matter what the size of the company or the dimensions of the circulation. There is always an overwhelming and pervading honesty in the air. Publishers are sharing what works and what doesn’t work, both critical aspects to be aware of in today’s changing environment.

If you possibly can, I say go to this event, it is held every two years. It will benefit you and your career personally and will no doubt help you, to help your company, by giving you global perspectives you can’t/won’t get elsewhere. You will meet people from everywhere. I had meaningful and lengthy conversations with publishers from Germany, Holland, Japan, and Finland, not to mention England, France, Canada and the USA. Since this was not my first time at FIPP events many of these publishers have become friends and readers of this newsletter over the past few years.

That being said let’s get to meat of the matter.

The overwhelming topic of the event, which was repeated many times by most of the speakers, was the need for culture change in the media workplace. Joe Ripp, CEO of Time Inc., said it. Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, Chairman of the Kadokawa Corp of Japan, waxed poetic about it, and my friend Peter A. Kreisky, Chairman of The Kreisky Media Consultancy, spent a full 45 minutes delving into the topic after interviewing Media CEOs from around the world on that very subject.

I believe that it is this important need for culture change that is at the heart of why many upstart media companies are cleaning the clocks of many traditional publishers. The newbies have no expensive traditional media structure to support and they actually live and use the constructs of the new world of digital media consumption. 

The more traditional publishers have legacy businesses that are costly to maintain and much more cumbersome to make efficient in the digital age of free flowing information distribution. And many times the traditional employee, in the traditional company, doesn’t live in, use and fully understand the nuances the newest social technologies.

As I’ve said in the past, all digital immigrants speak with a traditional accent.  

Joe Ripp gave the opening keynote in which he said that this is the most exciting time for our industry, and the opportunity is to look forward to the possibilities. Joe is an old school banker trying to bring forth a modern sensibility in a company seeped in stogy traditional methods. He reminds me of many men I used to work for back in the 1980s. He has a blunt, no nonsense business forward style. He discussed the culture at Time Inc. and how he is seeking to implement major changes to an industry in transition. He said that people are multitasking more now than ever before and asked, “How do you make this lifestyle change work in corporate world?” You do so by focusing on the internal culture. He also stated that “we must be excited about the future because culture trumps strategy.”

Here are some of my other notes from Joe’s Talk:

  • Time Inc. has 146 years of brand trust. Brands and content are a great asset going forward because there is so much bad content out there.
  • Our journalism creativity and narration through the written word is powerful
  • Data is an important component of how we will proceed into the future
  • Global media resides in an unpredictable world
  • 7.2bn people on the planet
  • 6.1bn cells phone on the planet
  • 4.5bn toilets on the planet
  • Average mobile phone users check their phones 100 times a day
  • We are no longer a magazine company where we limit ourselves to being just a print company.
  • Paper is declining and, in fact, there is a lack of interest in paper products. In the continued media turbulence Time Inc. faces continued shrinkage in print.
  • How do we break through the clutter? By having engaging content.  
  • We are now about Multi-platform experiences. 

Joe also talked about the current attention span of the millennials. In this case I think Joe and many other senior managers in the media business are gravely mistaken.

Using a slide of a gold fish he said the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds. In my opinion, If people think that data like this is truly meaningful and that the next and any other up-coming generation is less thoughtful and less accomplished than we are, they are gravely mistaken. Do they think there will never be new engineers, lawyers, teachers, brain surgeons, publishers, bankers and all the other parts of a functioning modern society? All these disciplines require long form reading and long form attention spans. So what people do on their cell phones has little or nothing to do with their potential to think, prosper and contribute to both businesses and society. I implore you all to reconsider. It’s time to get over with the massive negativity of the next generation, as they will indeed rule the world and do so just as effectively, and most likely even better, than we do now.  

Next up to the podium up was Tsuguhiko Kadokawa, who gave a fascinating talk titled When Magazines, Games & Video Collide.

I might add here that throughout the global conference there was a headset at every seat which was connected to busy translators at the back of the room. So even though I don’t speak Japanese and Mr. Kadokawa spoke only in Japanese, I understood his lecture and his points perfectly.

Mr. Kadokawa started very graciously with a tribute to Don Kummerfeld whom he said left a great legacy. Indeed, Don was a giant in our magazine business and held many prestigious positions. Among others he was the President & CEO of MPA and then went on to became President and CEO of FIPP. To Mr. Kadokawa’s delight Don brought FIPP to Japan.

The major thrust of this talk was about how Kadokawa’s print publishing house merged with Dwango, one of Japan’s largest online video platforms and systems companies. Clearly this was the merger of the old world and the new.  Mr. Kadokawa stated that 50% of people in surveys say they don’t buy a single book in a year. He said that we need to turn that around and get people to visit markets at least once a week. To do that we need a new market place, a platform where good content is available and where people will congregate. He suggested that as every business will operate through the internet, they need an IT system to operate in and on the internet.


 He went on to say that his company was transforming itself into a platform business. The problem for many companies is that they can’t shed the old style of business. But society has changed and Kadokawa Corp. must transform with it, if it doesn’t want to be only a content provider.

We want to be a platform provider. It is time for magazine publishers to become a provider.

There is no such thing as a perfect business run by a perfect business person.

We can’t predict the future, but we need not be afraid, and we must take chances to succeed.

I have 25 other pages of notes from my two days at the conference in Toronto, but I will draw this part of the conversation to a close as this is too long already.  I hope to write much more as the week progresses and as my next trip allows, this time to New York City and the FOLIO: Show

One last note: Another item that makes the FIPP conferences so excellent and different from others is the moderator of the overall event. His name is Mike Hewitt, of Adaugeo Media.  Mike is the central unifying point of the conference and represents a seamless continuity from one part to the show to the next. He introduces all speakers and after they are done, he asks quite brilliant questions. He can do this because he actually listens to what the speakers are saying, and that is a “trick of the trade” that many other moderators could and should pay attention to.

Source: BoSacks Precision Media Group

More like this

Congress 2015 Speaker Presentations

How to follow the FIPP World Congress online

41st FIPP World Congress to be held in Warsaw

Your first step to joining FIPP's global community of media leaders

Sign up to FIPP World x