We Like Mags! FIPP CEO James Hewes on the changing face of international networking

Out now, the latest episode of Christian Kallenberg’s We Like Mags podcast features FIPP President & CEO, James Hewes, as the two attempt to unravel the global media landscape that has rolled-up into the post pandemic era. 

High on the agenda is FIPP Congress, which is now just two months away, and Hewes explains how FIPP events themselves have evolved over the years – even before the pandemic – to meet changing industry needs.    

“What’s effective for publishers [today] is networking in the broadest sense,” says Hewes. “Because you can’t necessarily tell anymore what somebody needs for their business. Each person’s requirements are different, and that means that a single standardised, homogenised marketplace event is no longer necessarily the right thing to do.” 

“The networking through Congress is so powerful that it gives everybody the opportunity to find the person or the business that they need.”

From globalisation to global pandemic, and back out the other side

And it’s not only events that are changing. Before the global pandemic, we had globalisation, and a rapid wave of digitisation that eroded many existing barriers between national markets. All of which of course means that we are operating today in a significantly different media ecosystem to that of even a decade ago. 

“The other thing that has changed dramatically in the time that I’ve been involved with FIPP is the nature of media markets themselves. When I first started there was definitely a way to publish a ‘magazine’ – as it was then – in Germany, or the US, or the UK. And there weren’t a lot of learnings that you could take from one market to another – there were some, but not many.” 

“Now, the way that we do business is becoming standardised across the world. Everybody is trying to do the same things, we’re all interacting with the same platforms and the same partners, and so the lessons that we learn are pretty universal, and can be applied universally as well.” 

“So we might find an example of best practice in Nigeria, or in Finland, or in Turkey, and that would be applicable to a business in Canada, or Argentina, or even the US. So that’s kindof a related point in our industry that means that the networking opportunities have become infinitely more complex and infinitely more varied, which is obviously really exciting for us.”

The evolution of Congress

For a stark example of how FIPP Congress used to work, versus the relaxed setting that we can expect to find on the beach of Cascais in June, look no further than one of James’ own first memories of attending the event, long before he became CEO. 

“I do remember one of the first ones I went to was in Beijing,” Hewes says. “That was sometime in the mid 2000’s, and it was a fantastic spectacle. It was probably the last of the let’s say ‘Old Skool’ Congresses, whereby y’know Congress used to be treated like the Olympics… Countries would bid to bring the Congress to their country and treat it almost like a state occasion!” 

“That was certainly the case in China, and I’ll never forget that the concluding dinner for the Congress was in the Great Hall of the People in the middle of Beijing – the fantastic building that they use to host the party congress and all that kindof stuff. And there we were sitting, and watching local dance, and we had speeches, and so on…”

“…And I do remember that there was a mysterious Chinese publisher on each table, who we weren’t exactly sure who they were. And we worked out afterwards that they had been there to make sure that we behaved ourselves, and not embarrass this great room that we were all in. So this poor chap had to sit through our dinner, not understanding a word of what we were saying, but watching us drink all his wine and eat all his food and makes sure that we were good – and of course we didn’t disgrace ourselves!”   

It’s a short but sweet podcast that just hits the 25min mark, but Kallenberg and Hewes manage to explore a broad range of today’s industry issues. You can listen to the full episode here.  


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