Congress erupts out of the blocks in Portugal, as a new era of media innovation gets on track

The 44th FIPP World Media Congress officially got underway this morning, in the refreshing setting of a packed-out Cascais Citadel. With opening remarks from FIPP President & CEO, James Hewes, FIPP Chair, Yulia Boyle, and President & CEO of API – The Portuguese Press Association, Joao Palmeiro, the industry came out of the blocks in buoyant mood at its first largescale meet of the post-pandemic era. 

Leveraging today’s profitability to fuel tomorrow’s innovation

There was much celebration of success old and new, as the FIPP CEO highlighted what is now an extremely diverse industry. 

“For many years, I’ve stood on stages like this and pretended that magazines were a thing of the past,” said Hewes. “I’m not prepared to do that anymore. A key part of FIPP’s membership today are news businesses, and I will happily concede that for most of them, they are now in the business of news, rather than of newspapers.”

“But for the rest of us, we ARE magazine businesses, or at least magazine media businesses, and it is a great mistake for us to abandon that heritage too quickly, particularly when the multitude of new business models enabled by the democratisation of the tools of production and distribution have, if we are all being honest, yet to consistently deliver businesses of the same scale and profitability.” 

“I love magazines. And I suspect most of you love magazines too. Let’s celebrate that alongside our more recent achievements, rather than being ashamed of it. Digital transformation does not mean swapping dependency on one revenue stream for dependency on another. We will spend much of this year’s event exploring these diverse business models.”

João Palmeiro, President & CEO of API – The Portuguese Press Association, provided similar sentiment, telling the audience: “I am a magazine man. My heart, and what I have done, is with magazines.” 

From diversifying revenue streams to diversity & inclusion themes 

For FIPP’s first female Chair, Yulia Boyle, diversification of a different kind took centre stage. The Vice President for International Media, Image Collection and Content Operations at The Walt Disney Company/National Geographic Partners, introduced us to her key priorities for the industry across representation, member value, inclusive content, and innovation as she too looked to a positive future ahead. 

“When we look historically at our industry and at FIPP, we haven’t been looking hard enough at those regions like APAC and Africa where growth opportunities lie,” admitted Boyle. “But consumer behaviour has changed, and especially as the first female Chair of the organisation, I want us to live up to our tagline to connect global media.”

In an exciting, forward looking, and at times pragmatic presentation – as she laid out tangible processes and objectives for success – Boyle reflected the spirit of a rejuvenated industry now entering the post-Covid age. 

“Our world needs powerful multimedia storytelling during these times. We are committed to improving representation both internally and in the content we cover, and helping to drive innovative digital revenue streams to replace the decline in print revenues we have seen in recent years. We at FIPP can be your R&D incubator, your lab. Let us use these two days to re-establish connections and unleash balanced and inclusive growth.”

An experienced eye on the future 

Also taking to the Congress stage early was Ralph Buchi, a man who really needs no introduction to the FIPP audience – but I will anyway, because he is Chairman of the Axel Springer Supervisory Board – who advised that properly approaching the next wave of innovation is one of the key focal points for today’s industry.  

“It would be very risky to think that we have done digital transformation now and that’s that,” said Buchi. “We have to be prepared for the next one.” 

“Founded in 1946, Axel Springer was the first German newspaper to get a license to print post-WWII, and we have continued to adapt to change quickly over the years, becoming very international. The more recent acquisition and transformation of Politico serves as an example of this. Recent shifts in media have seen power and ownership handed back to the creators, producing and distributing content has become easier. Many of the middle-men have been cut out, and we have witnessed a shift from institutions to individuals.” 

“So going forward, media brands will need to be very careful that they don’t go the same way as travel companies. We need to work with young creators, as well as embracing new technologies like NFTs and the wider blockchain, which will revolutionise the concept of ownership and IP rights. If more time is spent in the metaverse, then at least some of it will be spent with news, events, and storytelling, and we as an industry can join that learning curve early.”

Back to reality… and reality is what we make it

Overall, the 44th FIPP World Media Congress got out of the blocks to a visibly fast start, as the industry left the last two years behind it in a heartbeat. The FIPP President & CEO spoke with palpable energy as he brought an opening to the real-world proceedings, which have been so sorely missed by members and non-members alike over the past two years. 

“Many of you will know that Cascais is my hometown,” said Hewes, “and it is with great personal pride that we are here this week. Human beings are social animals. The extended periods of confinement we have all endured over the last two and a half years have not been natural. At home, we missed the comfort of our extended families and the collective warmth of our friends. At work, we’ve missed the relationships that make our businesses tick, and the unexpected opportunities that come from face-to-face meetings.” 

“But this week, the overriding theme of this Congress is positivity and progress. The multitude of new opportunities open to us, together with the possibility of renewal in our legacy businesses, means that there has never been a better time to work in this industry, and never been a more exciting time to be a publisher.”  

[Main article image: Yulia Boyle, FIPP Chair, Presentation, photo by Hannah Reyes Morals]


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

Sign up to FIPP World x