Letter from FIPP CEO James Hewes: A busy start to the year… and is the consumer now king?

A slow start but a speedy finish

Is it just me, or does it feel like the year has only just begun and yet we’re already in April. The year started quietly for FIPP, as I know it did for so many of you. The ongoing UK lockdown, which had started in December, made it a difficult start to the year and we could tell that many of our members felt the same.

Nevertheless, we kicked off the year with a couple of webinars, starting with Jim Elliott and John French joining us to interview a range of guests on topics including the potential return to the office and the future of customer data following the demise of the 3rd party cookie. The following week, we were joined by our friends at Tipser to talk about the emerging e-commerce opportunity.

A key part of FIPP’s role is to ensure the industry is represented at industry events and to those coming into our industry from university. With this in mind, I was delighted to join the judging panels for both the UK’s PPA Awards and the more international Media Podcasting Awards. It was great to see entries from so many of our members and to read about the incredible results they’ve seen during a period of unprecedented difficulty for our industry. It was fabulous also to be able to share the latest industry trends with students from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Glasgow University, Cardiff University and Oxford Brookes University. The strength and depth of new talent actively looking to come into the industry is incredibly encouraging, and it was a great to hear their views on the industry.

We’ve also published two of our key knowledge resources in this first quarter. The latest update to the Global Digital Subscriptions Snapshot was launched a couple of weeks ago, containing a comprehensive update on data from across the world. The picture continues to be overwhelmingly positive, with double-digit growth for many publishers, and the emergence of some important new players.

The annual Innovation in Media World Report provides our regular view on the latest key innovations across our industry. This year’s reports featured updates on leadership and culture in the time of Covid, podcasting, sustainability, journalism and, crucially, the new direct to consumer business models that are increasingly dominating our business.

These topics provided the backbone for the agenda of this year’s Digital Innovators’ Summit. Although we had hoped to be able to hold some kind of in-person event, this simply isn’t possible, but I’m delighted that the many hundreds of delegates who registered have already enjoyed sessions on some of the subjects above, with two more DIS sessions scheduled between now and mid-May.

You may also have noticed that the FIPP website has undergone a bit of a change. We’ve added a requirement to register to read feature content, with our premium content (such as the reports above) now restricted to members only, with the ability for non-members to sign up and pay via the site. This approach enables us to concentrate on our content-first strategy, using the data that we generate about usage to enhance the quantity and quality of relevant content and insight we provide. Indeed, our Editor, Sylkia, has been hard at work on our new editorial strategy and you can expect to see the results of that in the coming months, with a host of new premium content arriving very soon.

All in all, as you can probably tell, it’s been a busy time!

The overriding theme throughout all our activity in the first part of the year has been the continued growth of the direct-to-consumer business model. For decades, our industry relied on advertising for the majority of its revenue. That time seems to be coming to an end and, while advertising will always be important, the emergence of consumer revenue as the key priority for media businesses has got to be a good thing.

With that in mind, we were delighted to announce the launch of our newest event, scheduled for this June. Our new Direct-to-Consumer Global conference will bring together the best examples of digital subscription, e-commerce and membership from businesses across the world, both in media and in the broader economy – think Peloton and Netflix, not just the New York Times and the Washington Post.

We’ll be announcing more details of the event shortly but for the time being, please mark your calendars for the weeks of June 14th and 21st, sessions will run across both weeks. To register your interest in attending or sponsoring this event, please contact us.

We look forward to seeing you there – as ever if there’s anything you need from your FIPP, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Have a great month.


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