FIPP President & CEO, James Hewes, is this week’s guest on the Taking Chances podcast, hosted by Anupama Bhalla & Soela Joshi. In a candid conversation, Hewes speaks about the changing nature of the global magazine industry, and the need to balance out the allure of emerging digital revenue streams with the enduring profitability of print.
“From a business pov it’s been an interesting transition,” says Hewes. “The number of publishers that you can find these days who are prepared to say that they are ‘magazine publishers’, you could count on the finger of one hand – it is not a business that people want to be seen to be in. Now, the big secret of course is that they all still make a large proportion of their revenue and enormous proportion of their profits from their print business – even the ones that are digitally successful.”
“So there is this kind of – almost a duality – in the industry, which is being pulled between two different poles. On the one hand, the print business is still so fundamentally important to the current financial status of the business. But from both an investor pov and for the futureproofing of the business, the publishers know that they need to have a digital hat on… they need to have digital investments and digital growth.”
As the title of the podcast would suggest, Taking Chances is all about embracing new revenue streams and pioneering innovation. But again as Hewes cautions, the most immediate – and impactful – forces are not always necessarily the ones hitting the headlines.
Taking measured chances
“So I’m sceptical about the metaverse – I’m probably wrong, but let’s see! I think the most immediate change you’ll see is not a revolution, but a continued evolution of what we’ve got already. And I would pick out two things from that… I think firstly you’re going to see a massive continuation of the consolidation that we’ve already seen in the last 3-4 years. The amount of merger and acquisition activity in the industry has been phenomenal and unprecedented. And you’re going to see more and more of this.”
“And the second thing I think we’ll see is this continued evolution of these new digital business models. I would expect to see more magazines putting up paywalls – usually with additional content, rather than using the content they’ve already got. You’re going to see more magazines making the link between content and commerce. So I certainly don’t detect any great radical change just around the corner in the sense of the next iPhone or iPad for example… there’s a bunch of stuff out there that people get excited about, and we’ve just got to be careful that this is an evolutionary process now.”
You can listen to the episode in full on Spotify here.