A clear message came from Day 1 (May 14, 2007) of FIPP's 36th World Magazine Conference held in Beijing. "Embrace the change", said the majority of speakers to more than 950 delegates from over 60 countries. The "change" is the digital revolution that is top of mind of most publishers around the world.
FIPP President and CEO Donald D. Kummerfeld started things off with a message that stuck throughout the day: "This Congress is taking place in what we call a global
transformation. I believe print will remain an important part of our future and perhaps the most important part for many. But we are now being offered a great opportunity to reach a greater audience – far greater than we could reach with print alone. This is exciting and frightening at the same time."
Digital strategies for magazines
The keynote speaker, John Rose, Partner, Boston Consulting Group, USA, talked about digital strategies for magazines -- and that the only certainly right now is uncertainty. "The only thing I know for sure is that whatever I say is probably wrong given the rate of change in the world that we live in," he said. "The right question to ask yourself is how do I need to change in order to change and react to the situation?"
Rose didn't recommend creating a long-term strategy because of the rapid rate of change. His advice was to perceive change and be connected to the world around you on a daily basis: "Change is here and more change is coming but the direction of that change is fundamentally unknown. You not only need to think about how you defend your core business but also how you access new opportunities. What you do tomorrow will be radically different based on those two factors but you have to do it tomorrow regardless of where you are.”
In the Digital Strategies discussion that followed, moderator Kummerfeld led Liu Danhui, Vice-president, Rayli Group, China; Yu Guoding, President, Business Weekly Media Group, Taiwan; Paul Keenan, Chief Executive, Emap Consumer Media, UK; Torsten Klein, President, G+J International, Gruner + Jahr AG, Germany; Steven Pleshette Murphy, President & CEO, Rodale Inc, USA, and Hugo Shong, Executive VP, International Data Group (IDG), USA.
All of them, except for Murphy, said that they only make about three per cent of revenue from their consumer websites but that that rate is growing rapidly. Murphy said Rodale is already at 10 per cent and expects to be at 30 per cent within a few years. Those with B2B sites said their website revenues are already at approximately 20 per cent.
And then the "change" theme came again.
Keenan said: "At Emap, we're in the process of changing what we do and how we do it. We're rewiring how the business operates. We believe every magazine in our business will be changed by new media. Our contents and brands and relationships will do well for us in this new world."
His positive outlook was echoed by Murphy: "Online is the best thing to happen to the magazine business since the printing press. Why? Because anything that creates a richer relationship with our customers can only be good for us. The question is how to we deal with it? They key thing is that the companies that win are those that will embrace the change."
Kummerfeld summed up the session saying: "The best thing to do is monitor, learn and experiment. Find out what works on an experimental basis and when you're ready to invest, invest in people and in new technology. Restructure your company."
Global opportunities for magazines in digital era
The afternoon's keynote speaker, Patrick J. McGovern, Founder-Chairman, IDG, talked about Global Opportunities for Magazine Publishers in the Digital Era. "You have to learn how to create and maintain a specialized virtual world that will keep your audience," he advised. "What's the balance between their desire to get information and their desire to contribute to the information?"
He mentioned that IDG's online growth is 30 to 35 per cent per year in the US. He anticipates that by 2010, 50 per cent of revenue will come from online.
And then he brought up change: "An ancient Chinese proverb says 'Change creates threats but also opens the doors to new opportunity.' In my 50 years in publishing, I don't think I've ever seen a more exciting time. Good luck dealing with the threat and making it a great opportunity for you."
Transition to multimedia environment
In the following session, ‘Business Information Transition from Publishing to Multimedia Environment’, Gordon Hughes, President & CEO, American Business Media (ABM), USA, moderated a panel that included Li Ying, Vice-president and Chairman, CCID, China; Erwin Reisch, CEO, Alfons W. Gentner Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Germany; and Pradeep Gupta, Chairman & Managing Director, CyberMedia, India.
Hughes talked about the success of ABM and how its business model now includes print, in person and online. "In 2000, half of revenue came from print magazines," he said. "In 2006, the largest revenue stream is face-to-face, magazines represent 36 per cent and digital now represents about 14 per cent of what our members do in revenues. We're looking at almost a 35 per cent growth from 2000-2006."
But despite that shift in revenue, magazines continue to be a very important part of the b2b industry, he said. "The information we provide remains as rich as it ever was before, but the dissemination of that information has changed radically. It was magazines that built and established brands and it was the magazines that created brand extensions. Today, a brand can start with a website or with an event. When you combine the internet and face-to-face, it's a great combo, and when you add a magazine to that, it's a knock-out in B2B."
Reisch used the analogy of publishers being in unchartered waters in a dense fog, so his recommendation was to "think small, think scalable and think 100 per cent made to order."