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Joe Ripp: “We are in the most exciting time for content”

“Producers in the history of media!” Nope, this is not the hype of some tech-driven content startup from Silicon Valley, but rather the opening words from industry veteran Joe Ripp, chairman and CEO, of legacy magazine company Time Inc., delivered at his keynote speech at FIPP’s World Congress in Toronto, Canada, this morning.

Joe Ripp ()

Ripp, who returned to Time Inc. after an absence of 14 years, exhorted media brands across the world to “look forward and see the opportunities in front of them,’ and not to be intimidated by them.”

He claims that “there is so much bad content out there, that quality content (as delivered by the company's numerous brands), will win through and engage readers.”

Ripp does acknowledge that company, which boasts 120 print monthly readers, 155 million digital readers and runs 600 annual events, faces some serious challenges. The key one being the growth of mobile, which he describes as “a medium not especially suited to delivery of advertising messages.” He also added that mobile had played a part in further reducing the average attention span of a human to “just eight seconds in 2013 one second less than a goldfish”.

Changing the culture

However, Ripp sees the way that brands can continue to grow and thrive is if they focus on changing the culture of their companies. Stressing that he thinks that ‘culture trumps strategy’ Ripp then explained how Time Inc. regularly has brainstorming sessions with its youngest and most idealistic staff under the banner of Media Upstarts.

“They don't know why it won't work,” he says. “They are not jaded by the changes, but very excited about opportunities and where we can go. Tapping into that mindset is how you go for transformation.”

Ripp then dissected how his company has begun to engineer that change in the last few years.

“There’s no silver bullet,” he argues. “We live in a time of continuing turbulence, disruption and change Instead we enhanced our core business and asked how we can extend their reach and find new ways of monetising them.”

Ripp highlighted native advertising, optimising content for mobile devices, the importance of data (which Ripp argues will define much that that company does), live events (the company has recently acquired new businesses in this space) as being at the core of the new Time Inc.

Admitting that there is “still plenty of interest in paper products, just not as much as before,” Ripp went on to outline an integrated approach driven by digital products that he believes will excite brand CMOs - people who he believes are struggling to find digital solutions for their marketing issues.

He then talked about the importance of investment in media properties. “To grow companies requires intelligent risk taking and investment yet we must protect our cash flows,” he adds.

Ripp finished his presentation by challenging the publishing industry to think differently about how they harnessed technology. He pointed out that when the iPad launched many companies simply produced PDF magazines for the device – a move which he describes as attaching a horse to a car.

He then issued a challenge to the delegates stressing that his business was open to discussion, partnerships and more. There are likely to be many people who are willing to talk with him.

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