Rapid-Round Congress Q&A: James Hewes, President and CEO of FIPP

Over the last decade, the media and publishing worlds have changed enormously as companies have shifted their focus from print to digital, along the way negotiating the many challenges and opportunities presented by social media.

FIPP, the organisation that connects global media, has been there to help them to develop the tools and the culture they need to thrive in ever-changing business environments.

In this Congress speaker Q&A James Hewes, CEO of FIPP:

  • Tells us about his career, and how FIPP is enabling its members to share best practice and explore emerging business models
  • Shares his thoughts on publishing in an economic downturn. Is cost-cutting the right way forward? Will companies that invest now reap the rewards in sunnier economic climes?

At FIPP World Media Congress in Cascais, Portugal, on 6-8 June, FIPP CEO, James Hewes will be both sharing his vision for both the organisation and the media in general. James will also be interviewing some of the event’s key guests.

For specially discounted tickets click here.

  • Our group launch offer is available until today, 1 February
  • Our pre-agenda offer for individuals is available until 14 February

Here James responds to our four rapid-round questions.

Tell us about you and your role in the media/publishing industry.

I’m James Hewes, I’m the current President & CEO of FIPP. We are the global trade association for the magazine media industry, with a particular specialisation on multi-platform consumer lifestyle and special interest publishers, although we also represent the interests of new media and B2B publishers.

Our organisation works to provide knowledge-sharing, networking and advocacy services for the industry, as well as a consulting arm that helps publishers across the world with development projects.

What have been the highlights of your career in media/publishing so far?

I’m really proud of the work we’ve done to re-position FIPP at a time of great change for the industry. A much more precise focus on media business models has helped our members to develop their businesses and ensure that they can continue to profitably produce the great content our brands are known for. There are plenty of exciting developments in the pipeline too, such as a greater focus on sustainability standards across the industry, and a new analysis looking at the state of the digital advertising market.

The work I do with FIPP puts me in a great position to see what’s going on in our industry globally, and a key part of my role is to try and share those trends with anyone who wants to know.

I guess the work that really brought me into FIPP’s orbit in the first place, and the thing I’m really proud of from my past career, is building the BBC’s international magazine business. We took what was a small, unloved and forgotten bit of the portfolio and turned into the third-biggest profit area in the company. We had Top Gear in something like 50 countries and other brands, such as BBC Good Food, in quite a few places too. That was a time of explosive growth for international publishing and it’s pleasing to see companies turning their attention to digitally-based international models once again.

What do you see as the three key trends in the media?

I think there are three top-level trends that are important at the moment:

  • What’s going to happen with the economy? A lot of publishers are making pre-emptive moves to cut costs at the moment, anticipating a recession that hasn’t really arrived yet. I have a feeling the downturn might not be as severe as everyone thinks, particularly for our sector, so we must be careful not to cut the hearts out of our businesses. Getting a feel for how businesses are thinking about this will be an important factor at Congress.
  • How do we address the leadership and skills challenge in the industry? I think a lot of the points made by Prof. Lucy Kueng in her recent report into leadership in our industry are still valid. We need to work harder on developing new leadership skills to meet the challenge of the rapidly-evolving market in which we’re operating, as well as ensuring we make our industry as attractive as possible for new entrants. I’m looking forward to hearing how publishers are continuing to address this challenge.
  • Is this all that there is? This was a question posed at last year’s Congress. Digital media is no longer “new”, it’s been around 25 years, so we can’t expect radical, revolutionary change, only continuous evolution. More specifically, having done a fair amount of digital transformation in recent years, it’s clear that for many it’s not delivering the returns we expected.

Why are these trends important and how will they change media/publishing?

They’re all tied up with a general question of “where are we going?”. The multitude of content types, platforms and business models that we can now pursue is creating great complexity. But the difference this time is that this complexity is helping us to decrease our collective risk, rather than increase it as was the case in the past. Helping publishers to untangle this complexity is a key part of our role.

Anything else you’d like to tell Congress delegates?

We’re looking forward to seeing you all at Congress once again and, if you’re not already a FIPP member, why not join? You’ll be helping the industry to build its future and you’ll get access to more great content and networking opportunities – we’d love to welcome you to membership.

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About Congress

The FIPP World Media Congress is a must-attend event for anyone in leadership positions in the media. Delegates can hear from an incredible range of media thought leaders and influencers while networking with their peers in the resort’s stunning venues and hotels.

For specially discounted tickets click here.

  • Our group launch offer is available until today, 1 February
  • Our pre-agenda offer for individuals is available until 14 February


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