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“Fewer, Bigger, Better Ads”: FIPP World Media Congress – Snap highlights, Day 2

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Day Two started with Florian Elder of Politico taking to the Congress Stage to talk about political and economic trends, especially how the world is transitioning to a paradigm based on ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) rather than economic considerations.

He gave the EU’s recent decision to ban petrol-powered cars by 2035 as a clear example of the trend, especially in Germany where the automotive sector is so important.

Economy is becoming an instrument and tool, rather than the goal itself. Smooth functioning of the global economy is not the priority, other factors are overriding it – notably politics and ideology. Media companies need to be aware of this and to adapt accordingly

Florian Elder, Exec Editor, Germany, Politico

New York Times transforms itself with journalism and technology

Attention turned to Tom Armstrong, VP of Global Advertising, New York Times, who disclosed what a perilous situation the New York Times found itself in just thirteen years ago, “In 2011 the New York Times survival was not assured because we relied on an advertising model that had come under severe pressure. By 2014 we had stabilised but we were still a newspaper with a digital presence rather than a digital publisher with a newsroom presence.”

The NYT was winning at journalism but failing in the art and science in getting our journalism to our digital audiences.

Tom Armstrong, VP of Global Advertising, New York Times

Armstrong outlined how the NYT had transformed itself by retaining a keen focus on its journalism allied to a strong subscription strategy. Advertising still remained a “key revenue driver” but the publisher adopted a new advertising slogan – ‘Fewer, Bigger, Better’ – that meant displaying fewer ads, but placed in better positions in larger formats. The NYT also stopped programmatic entirely and instead created its own ad units in-house that were designed to perform better within the NYT’s page framework.

Our next aim is to acquire 15 million subscribers, assisted by our portfolio of digital properties, including our acquisitions of Wordle and The Athletic, to name but two subscription brands. Our motto is simple: Make Something Worth Paying For.

Tom Armstrong, VP of Global Advertising, New York Times

Condé Nast ventures into Web3

Attention turned to the Congress stage where Ciara Byrne, Director of New Business Innovation, Condé Nast outlined how the next generation of technology – Web3 – is seeing a profound move to the decentralization of ownership & content, with transparency and community at their core. She gave as an example the community gaming platform Roblox which has 48 million daily users with 50% of gamers aged thirteen or less, “this is the type of Web3 way in which the upcoming generation is interacting with the Internet”.

Byrne went on to explain how Condé Nast is venturing into Web3 citing as an example last week’s launch of GQ’s new Discord channel. According to Byrne, Discord is a Web3 community and quasi-messaging app that has allowed GQ users to interact with fellow readers and GQ’s editorial staff in a relaxed, flexible and community-minded way.

Not everyone agreed, however, with Rafat Ali, CEO of Skift being particularly withering of publishers’ attempt to muscle into the Web3 space:

Indeed, the topic of NFT’s came under fire from a number of publishers present, and whilst it was admitted that Time magazine has been successful with its NFTs, Byrne ended by serving a warning to the assembled publishers:

If you are interested in Web3 or the Metaverse, don’t start with NFTs – it’s a recipe for disaster.

Ciara Byrne, Diretor of New Business Innovation, Condé Nast

Subscribers, communities, utility and culture

James Hewes, CEO of FIPP, took the stage to talk about Piano and FIPP’s Q2 Global Digital Subscription Snapshot along with an accompanying panel of guests. A small number of publishers were seeing profound growth but, in general terms, subscriber acquisition growth is tailing off since the pandemic has ended.

James Hewes, CEO, FIPP launching the Q2 Global Digital Subscription snapshot

When questioned about what advice he would give publishers using digital subscriptions, Michael Silberman, SVP Strategy of Piano, said, “all the successful publishers using our platform test constantly, and iterate continually.”

Subscriber retention starts at the moment of acquisition.

Michael Silberman, SVP Strategy, Piano

Our day ended with Douglas McCabe of consultancy Enders Analysis, who updated assembled publishers on the latest thinking behind reader-first media models and the growing opportunities—and tripwires—for publishers of all sizes.

Douglas implored publishers to experiment and not hold back because the demand is there, “there is no consumer demand problem within publishing, but often we are held back on the supply side by not being willing to experiment and risk.”

Immediate Media is a publisher that relentlessly focuses on community. It is a standout example of a publisher expanding its offerings to underpin a community-led model – its recent Good Food app is a perfect example.

Douglas McCabe, Enders Analysis

Finally, our time at FIPP World Congress couldn’t end without an acknowledgement of the wonderful networking opportunities that the conference afforded to meet and talk with fellow publishers and vendors. During lunch on the final day we sat down with the team at Newsroom AI, a startup who are aiming to bridge the polarization gap by providing diversity of context and perspectives to the way we all consume news. It’s clever tech.

The last word needs to go to Newsroom AI’s Jenny Romano, “We’re trying to use the news to bring people together instead of driving them further apart.”

Amen to that.