FIPP Innovation Forum Q&A: John Wilpers shares innovation secrets and deep insights

In the lead up to June’s FIPP Innovation Forum, John Wilpers, senior director, Innovation Media Consulting USA, and author of the Innovations in Magazine Media 2014 World Report, shares his views about how media companies are innovating and what’s motivating them today.
Wilpers will be one of the co-hosts of FIPP’s first Innovation Forum in London on 26-27 June. The Forum builds on five years of the successful Innovations in Magazine Media World Report, and will bring the best innovation case studies in the 2014 report and beyond to life. 
Immerse yourself in innovation, engage and dissect case studies from around the world, and come away with practical ideas to implement in your organisations back home. With presenters and case studies from brands such as Buzzfeed, Unruly Media, Vice, Google, Hearst, Hubert Burda Media, Meredith, Quartz and Time Out already confirmed, the FIPP Innovation Forum is an event not to be missed. But do note places will be limited to ensure an intimate, engaging experience, so book today to avoid disappointment.
The following Q&A with Wilpers not only offer secrets and insights on innovation, but will also give you a good understanding of what to expect at the Innovation Forum in London.
What approaches are media companies taking to innovation right now?
When we were researching Innovations, we found all different scenarios – people who are doing it in a hurry, people who are taking a longer-term approach and doing it in a more thoughtful way, others who are going the whole hog and completely changing their business, and some who are doing it in a segmented way – changing just some aspects of their business. But there’s one thing in particular that stands out among innovators. The successful ones are those who manage both the culture and the process change carefully. If you don’t do that, you risk failure and permanently damaging your business. In addition, if you really want to succeed, it’s essential you bring in ‘outsiders’ to help you through the process. Only outsiders can take a completely objective view. Insiders have bias – personal bias, friend bias, platform bias or concern about the threat posed to their territory. Planning is of course also key. Some businesses are desperate to change quickly – and in some cases rightly so, due to the fact they are seeing such rapid decline in their revenues, for example. But planning and researching your innovation is of course important.
What’s driving innovation at present?
What’s really driving innovation is that businesses now have the ability to target, deliver, measure and constantly recalibrate. You look at who you want to hit, you use data to measure what they want, you deliver that and then measure the success of it – so you can do the successful things again and stop doing the less successful things. Years ago, beyond the broad indicator of how many magazines you were selling, this was mainly down to guesswork. Now, with data and analytics, we have far better insight. You still need that editorial instinct and that gut feeling for what will resonate with your audience – but data allows us to validate that. Nearly all the successful publications from history came from someone having an idea, a gut feeling for what an audience wanted, and strong execution of that idea. They didn’t come from a committee or a set of data. So the intangible feel for a product is still really important – but the data can show us if that really is working. Big data, along with native advertising and programmatic advertising are the things business are really turning to and which are creating so much opportunity. 
Which innovations have impressed you recently?
The innovations that really intrigue me right now are the ones that successfully blend print and digital. What’s interesting is that many of the businesses leading the charge in this area are the media advertisers. Nivea, for example, the sun cream company, had a mobile phone charger built into a magazine so sunbathers on the beach in Brazil could charge their mobile phones as they relaxed on the beach. That’s about understanding your audience and giving them an experience they appreciate. Billboard used near-field technology to create a cover whereby if you placed your mobile on top of it, it played songs from a nearby concert. In another example, a gardening magazine embedded seeds into its publication so that when gardeners were finished with it they could bury it in the ground and it would turn into wildflowers. This is all about finding a creative way to build your brand, which is why media advertisers are behind so much of it. You are not going to do these things every issue. But you are creating excitement, providing an experience and demonstrating your value in a way that sticks in the mind and improves the affiliation with your brand.
What innovations on the horizon excite you right now?
Programmatic and native advertising, big data and video are the areas that are particularly exciting right now and will continue to be. With video, people are watching it so much more – and its not just editorial video, it’s ad video content. The content being put out by brands such as Nike, Jaguar and Red Bull is very engaging content in its own right. And people are much more willing to accept that because regardless of where it comes from, it has value. So the blending of native advertising and video is very exciting. Of course, if you’re a magazine publisher, then you are seeing the advertisers and the brands – which were never previously a threat to you – setting up their own newsrooms and content teams. That’s a threat in two senses: one because they are looking for good people and they will probably pay more than you, and two because they are creating content to rival yours. Of course, it’s also an opportunity right now because they don’t yet have the experience or knowledge. So the content companies need to jump in and provide what they need.
Join Wilpers and other leading innovation thinkers and doers at the Innovation Forum in London on 26-27 June. Book today!
Contact Claire Jones and/or Natalie Butcher with any questions about the FIPP Innovation Forum.
Learn more about and/or order the Innovations in Magazine Media 2014 World Report or contact Helen Bland and/or Sylkia Cartagena for more information or help.
All attendees at the Innovation Forum will receive free copies of the 2014 World Report at the event in London. FIPP Members receive free digital editions of all our research publications, including Innovations in Magazine Media World Report. If you have not received your access to the 2014 report yet, contact Helen Bland and/or Sylkia Cartagena . If you would like to find out more about FIPP membership, contact Cobus Heyl.

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