FIPP’s 2020 Congress and the Future of Publishing

The FIPP World Media Congress 2020 launched last week as a month-long digital event, billed as an opportunity to learn from the world’s leading media executives. While attendees of the yearly event no doubt miss the fun of being live onsite, there’s something compelling about this year’s event.

Their invitation is clear: “Join us from anywhere in the world.” Publishers would do well to take them up on it. It’s not free (we are, thankfully, past the age where “online content” must equate to “free content”), yet the price of an all-access pass is far less than the cost to attend in person in years past. It’s a bargain, and could make the difference in how next year and indeed the next several years unfold for the publishers and media company leaders who attend.

“To build the media company of the future we have to ask what is the dream, what is the purpose and mission of a media company and journalists today – and where the trajectory of change that we have seen is heading,” said Wolfgang Blau, President and COO of Condé Nast, in his opening keynote address last week.

“We may be calling this the new normal but the only thing that is new and normal now is that change of all kinds, in all areas of our business, is accelerating,” Blau continued. “The good news is that humans are incredibly adaptable and inventive and if you look at the history of some of the world’s long established media companies many of them have made it through much, much greater challenges.”

In his keynote, Blau underscored how important it will be for media companies to understand their own brand and what it stands for. The last several months have forced us to take a deeper look at what we’re doing, beyond the bottom line but to the role we want our brand to play in society.

“We learnt that if your journalism is being perceived as essential for those interested in that brand’s subject matter, they have a strong future,” he said. “But if it is seen as generic and something you can also find somewhere else, you will inevitably struggle. Every single story needs to carry that quality of being worth someone’s time.”

Maybe it took a pandemic for us all to truly learn the power of the “audience first approach,” although Condé Nast has been a good example of this the last few years. Now, their focus is paying off, giving them the trusted platform from which they can, as Blau says, “… lift, highlight and promote the voices and issues that help move us forward.”

The most important lesson we can all take away from 2020? According to Blau, it’s simple.

“We are dependent on each other for our collective wellbeing and we must take care of our home, our planet,” he continued.

FIPP’s Congress 2020 is off to a rousing start; check out their site and see if you might find some inspiration of your own this month.