Letter from FIPP CEO James Hewes: navigating the big tech labyrinth, and the continued rise of D2C

Welcome to this month’s note from me to all our members, thank you as always for your continued support of FIPP.

The first half of 2021 is shaping up really well, with the launch of the new, members-only area on the website, another highly-successful edition of the Digital Innovators’ Summit (produced as ever in partnership with our friends at VDZ) and the launch of our ‘How to build and better your subscriptions business’ training course. It was great to see such a high take-up for the course, which was free to members and ended up being sold out, a first for our emerging FIPP Training business.

Our thoughts this month are on two key areas: the power of big tech; and the continuing rise of direct-to-consumer (D2C) as the key business model for our industry.

The business of content monetisation is a maze where every exit is blocked by just two companies.

James Hewes, FIPP CEO

The GAFA maze

This week, we will be launching our next white paper, tentatively titled “Big Tech and You”. In it we will be setting out the range of approaches that publishers are taking to dealing with Facebook and Google in particular, from close collaboration to open hostility. In my introduction to the report, I describe the business of content monetisation as “a maze where every exit is blocked by just two companies.”

The Big Tech white paper is intended to be FIPP’s “map” for navigating this maze and next week I’ll be giving you my opinion on the findings.

One of the approaches being adopted is lobbying governments across the world to introduce meaningful legislation to curb the power of these companies. With this in mind, last week saw the launch of our first piece of live journalism, the “Global Media Tech Regulation Tracker”. This will be updated weekly with the latest developments from across the globe, as new laws are introduced and new approaches developed.

Securing a “fair deal” for publishers and contributing to efforts to safeguard society from the potentially-damaging impact of these technology giants is an important goal for our industry, one that FIPP will continue to support with our content and analysis.

The consumer continues to be king

We say it a lot but only because it’s important. The rise and rise of direct-to-consumer revenue models continues apace. In the past week, we’ve reported on how FIPP members Aller Media have been riding the e-commerce wave to grow this area of their business in Sweden. E-commerce is just one of the topics we’ll be covering in our forthcoming D2C Summit, taking place June 15-17 and 22-24.

This is a new event, which we’ve launched in response to the overwhelming importance of consumer revenues to our members. Crucially, we’re securing speakers from businesses outside of the media industry that have built successful recurring revenue models. For example, we’ll be hearing from Lennert de Jong, Chief Commercial Officer of CitizenM Hotels, about their hotel room subscription service, and David Cobban, formerly of Nike, on where they went wrong with their equivalent for training shoes.

And of course, we’ll be joined by a range of media experts talking about their experiences, including from brands such as The Economist, Insider, the Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Bloomberg, Hearst and more. The D2C Summit is being organised jointly by FIPP and Robbie Baxter and takes place entirely online, and you can watch sessions live or at your convenience through the event video library.

Just some of the confirmed speakers for D2C Summit. Register here.

We’ve released the first block of tickets at the exclusive FIPP member price of just £99 – but there’s only 100 of these, so act fast to book your place. Corporate passes are also available. These provide access to everyone in your company for a single price, please contact john@fipp.com if you’d like to learn more.

This month also saw the start of our new ‘How to build and better your subscriptions business’ training course. This five-module programme is completely free for FIPP members, thanks to our sponsors Zephr, and runs through until early June. It’s the first in a series of courses being offered by our new FIPP Training business; look out for a similar one on e-commerce coming in the Autumn.

New launches and new beginnings

Despite all the focus on digital, it’s good to see that the there’s still plenty of positive activity happening in the print world. This week saw FIPP members Meredith launch Paw Print magazine, as a spin-off from their successful dailypaws.com website. Then, later in the week, we talked to ITP’s Sue Holt about the UAE publisher’s move to launch Harper’s Bazaar and Esquire in Saudi Arabia. All of these are print launches, showing that the sector continues to show growth, even in the most difficult circumstances.

This week also saw the news that FIPP members Future will take over the operations of the Marie Claire brand in the US from Hearst. This acquisition will build on their ownership of the UK iteration of the brand, as well as their incredible success in building and monetising digital audiences across their portfolio.

Next week I will be up in the Kenton Theatre in Henley, our studio once again for the D2C Summit, recording the first session for the event. I look forward to seeing you all in June at the event – albeit virtually – and hope you have a great month.



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