Held in Cascais, Portugal in June, this year’s FIPP World Media Congress was an event to remember – three jampacked days that saw more than 400 delegates from across the globe network and attend talks covering everything from AI to Gen Z.
A new Di5rupt report sieves through the wealth of content to identify the main themes to emerge from Congress, while also listing the key learnings from the event.
No topic was more hotly debated at Congress 2023 than the rapid rise of new technologies. As FIPP President and CEO, James Hewes pointed out in his opening address: “The existential challenge is there from AI, not only to us but to some of the businesses in our ecosystem.
“It’s clear that we’re all thinking quite deeply about the impact that this technology could have on our world and on our businesses, we’re not treating this like some technologies in the past where we’re just letting it run free. We’re actually having sensible conversations.”
It was a sentiment backed up by the fact that no fewer than eight sessions at the Congress were largely focused on AI while around a dozen or so more referenced it in different ways.
From the need for stress-testing new technology to harnessing AI to deliver highly effective transcription tools, there was a lot for delegates to sink their teeth into.
Carving a niche
Another big topic of discussion at Congress 2023 surrounded a renaissance in niche media, with entrepreneurs nurturing small, but passionate communities in both the B2B and B2C sectors.
Interestingly, many of the discussions in niche media focused on platforms and tactics that played a significant role in Congress 20 years ago – podcasts and email newsletters.
Many presenters also referred to the resilience of print and in particular its growing symbiotic relationships with digital content.
“We’re firm believers that print is eternal. It will never die. And there are a great many examples of how print is indeed growing in many markets, very much based on fandom,” said Juan Señor, President, Innovation Media Consulting.
“People still like print and will pay a premium price for that experience if it’s unique, if it’s tailored, if it’s niche.”
A wake-up call
Paid-for content remained high on the agenda at Congress 2023, thanks, in particular, to presentations by Kerin O’Connor, CEO, Atlas and Lance Johnson, executive investor and advisor and former CEO of Recurrent Ventures.
“I think increasingly you want to be generating revenue directly from your audience. So, subscriptions, memberships, things like that,” said Johnson.
“Readers who are putting their hands up and saying: ‘I’m spending a lot of time with you’. How are you giving them a better experience than someone who’s just coming for one site visit and leaving?”
There was also talk about finding new revenue models to explore. Setting the tone was FIPP’s current Chair Yulia Boyle, who argued the rise of generative AI, as well as layoffs across the board in tech and media industry, were a wake-up call to companies to proactively develop new business models.
Equality, going green and engaging Gen Z
It was also clear at Congress 2023 that DEI, sustainability and better engaging Gen Z remained top priorities for media groups.
Jens Mueffelmann, Executive Chairman, Bonnier, pointed out that 96% of CEOs believed DEI was top of their agenda and a strategic priority.
“And what is really important, the driver is not just about doing the right thing, the right ethical thing. It is also that it helps companies to improve profitability and employee retention,” he added.
The key issue at Congress 2023 was not the rights and wrongs of the concept of DEI but rather the steps media companies need to take to ensure that recruitment meets the required levels.
Turning to sustainability, delegates heard from Thomas Waltasaari, UK and North Europe Area Sales Director at UPM Communication Papers, on the ongoing attempts of paper companies to ensure that magazines are recyclable.
“There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. We are of course, at pains to try and highlight the positive roles that UPM and other forestry industry players are playing,” he said. “And just as an example, that we produce or grow trees for every one that we cut down, we’re also responsible for and helping to expand the overall forest size within Europe.”
An emerging trend at Congress 2023 centred around engaging with younger audiences. Martynas Vanagas and Pierre Caulliez of Yoof Agency delivered a stirring presentation lambasting media companies for not focusing enough on Gen Z and Gen Alpha audiences – groups which in two years will be more than 50% of the world’s population.