The Congress takes place in Toronto, Canada from 13-15 October 2015 and is the industry’s flagship international event; taking place every second year and attracting some 700-800 high-level executives (discounted early bird booking is currently available for a limited time only).
Of those businesses that have evolved multi-platform magazine media publishers and those that are trying to, what is it that sets apart those that are successful and those that are not?
This is what I’ll be talking about in Toronto at this year’s FIPP World Congress. The most difficult thing of all, and the thing that all publishers agree is the most difficult thing, is cultural change – changing the culture of a magazine publishing business so it is able to compete with the digital natives. Cultural change is a real challenge. I had lunch with [president and CEO of Hearst Magazines International] Duncan Edwards [who will also speak at the Congress] just recently, and he told me that although it is possible – and they have done it – even the biggest and most progressive firms find cultural change really, really tough. I think the companies that have made the most progress are the ones that have both embraced the need for and figured out how to execute on those cultural changes.
How do you implement cultural change? Is it about ruthless leadership or a steady change over time, for example?
We have seen from the major cultural changes that have taken place, that for those who have been successful, strong senior leadership has been critical – to ensure people embrace change, to ensure they adapt to the new corporate strategy and to give permission to the entire organization to change. That means changing the organizational structure from the hierarchical command-and-control structure that was at the heart of the traditional publishing model, to a much flatter one where responsibility is pushed down to the frontline and where the business’s operation is genuinely always-on, has cycle times that are monthly or even weekly, and which is hiring people who are digital natives – i.e. those who have grown up with internet at the centre of their lives.
How does that affect responsibility and decision-making in the business?
The centrepiece of this really is empowerment. There has to be a desire at the very top of the organization to delegate and to devolve decision-making to people who, really, would in the past have been considered quite junior and quite inexperienced. If you have recruited the right people and you empower them to make the right decisions, they will do that.
Presumably this is a change that has to happen over quite a period of time?
The big problem for companies that have a print publishing legacy is that they have to operate at two speeds. They have to embrace both the new digital world and all it’s new and different requirements, and they have to keep the legacy print business going because that is what pays the rent, keeps the lights on and pays the salaries during the transition. It is a huge challenge for the business to integrate those two things and that’s why we have seen some wavering on whether it is right to integrate or not. The truth is that has taken longer than it should, but probably not as long as it might have – and it’s still work in progress. What companies have been slow to embrace is that they are selling brands, and the total brand eco-system has to be profitable. If they look at that as a whole, then the magazines can be used to make the money that funds the investment in other platforms.
We have seen a shift in terms of who has the right to produce content. It’s created more opportunity for content businesses but also brought more players to the game. How do you see that playing out in the future?
If you look at native advertising, branded content, sponsored content etc, we have seen such fast change in the industry. We went through an incredible learning curve initially, resisted it because of the traditional church and state operation, and then we embraced it and have had to adapt. Some have embraced that far more than others, of course, and you are absolutely right that it has allowed other, third-party, agencies to come into the game. But they have always had creative as well as media buying services, so I think that if magazine media companies can get their act together, they have superior storytelling skills and ability to engage consumers than agencies do. So the future really is going to be driven by how much they can leverage that storytelling and engagement ability.
Other FIPP Congress speaker Q&As
What’s more, this year’s FIPP Congress offers you four-in-one events, with the Worldwide Media Marketplace on 13 October, the DNF – content on the move on 14 October and the Innovation Forum on 15 October, the latter two running as streams in the main Congress programme. This allows you to customise the experience to your particular needs, making use of one of three booking options available.
All inclusive Congress ticket, which also gives you access to all of the above (WMM, the main Congress programme, DNF and Innovation Forum)
Congress only, which gives you access to the main Congress programme, DNF and Innovation Forum
WMM only, which gives you access to WMM and DNF
More than 200 people have registered so far, using our Early Bird booking option (available until 15 May 2015). They include CEOs and other C-suite executives, managing and other directors, publishers, editors-in-chief and departmental managers from 25+ countries – starting with countries with an A all the way through to Zimbabwe with a Z. Register today to join us in Toronto.