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FIPP World Media Congress: Meet the speakers – Juan Señor

The 46th FIPP World Media Congress held in Cascais, Portugal gathers leading figures from the global media industry to share insights, foster collaborations, network, and explore future trends. In the fifth of our series leading up to the event next month, we talk to Juan Señor about the much anticipated Congress launch of his annual Innovation In Media World Report.

One of the undoubted highlights of the FIPP World Media Congress is the launch of the annual Innovation In Media World Report. Authored by Jayant Sriram and Juan Señor of Innovation Media Consulting in partnership with FIPP, the book explores the most profitable developments impacting media today.

As part of our ongoing series of interviews with speakers at this year’s Congress, which takes place between 4-6 June in the Portuguese town of Cascais, we this week catch up with Juan Señor, who will take to the stage on 5 June to launch the 2024 edition of the Innovation Report.

Could you please introduce yourself and explain your role in the media?

I am the President of Innovation Media Consulting. We’ve worked on the transformation of magazine and news media groups all over the world on every continent for 35 years.

What’s the history of the Innovation In Media World Report and what exactly goes into creating it?

We’ve been publishing the Innovation Report for the last 11 years on behalf of FIPP. It takes about 12 months of full research. We get a lot of contributions from different publishers that obviously know the report and want to share with us their insights and their innovations. We’ve got a vast network of 90 consultants globally gathering cases and sharing them with us. We put it through a filter, which is a well-known one where you have to include either all three or one of three when it comes to reach, revenue or relevance. If not, you end up with a report about trends. Trends are great, but in this report we try to capture proven innovations and indeed increased reach, revenue and relevance. If you get all three, you’re definitely going to make it into the book!

The report is a wonderful tradition in the sense that it allows us to stop and think – just to have something in terms of permanence, because we live with constant digital trends and ups and downs. So, this is a chance to really have a book that looks at the big trends for the past year and what’s to come. It gives you that sense of having something physical to look at. We obviously try to write the book and look at the cases in a way that it lasts six to nine months, which has proven to be the case. Over the last 10 to 11 years, we’ve been proven right in terms of signposting the direction of travel. It gives you some strategic priorities as to what you should look at, what makes sense and what doesn’t – and not to be chasing the next big shiny thing, which is something publishing has suffered from.

At last year’s Congress you encouraged delegates to stand firm on their unique values while embracing the opportunities of AI. How has the media dealt with AI subsequently?

Extremely well, I have to say. Publishing in general has realised that we can’t make the same mistakes we made with social and digital before that, with website and search. We cannot build a business on somebody else’s platform. And that’s the key strategic priority. What we’re about to see is the rise of the new duopoly, the new big tech giants that are going to completely take over. We forecast that Meta will be supplanted by ChatGPT. They will become the new Facebook, the new Meta. Google has a chance to still remain one of the big tech, but we also see that every market is going to have its own big tech duopoly, which is exactly what’s happening in China. The same thing will happen in India and other markets.

I think in the Western world we will have the rise of the new big tech, which will have an impact on publishers. Last year we said let’s get this one right. Let’s not rush into it. There’s no strategic advantage for us to rush into this and let’s block scraping. And most publishers have blocked scraping and now we’re seeing the emergence of the first licensing deals. As we pointed out last year, 30% of the content that feeds these large LLMs comes from publishers. So, we should expect compensation for that. It’s time to hold our ground, not to give it for free and negotiate licensing deals.

Obviously, there are so much nuance to this. It’s the beginning of a new forever. If your revenue is still predicated on search, and Google selling advertising against your content – that’s going to disappear fast. For publishers It’s a very worrisome development because we may end up just being a content agency for generative AI chats models and chat browsers. Why should people visit a website of a publisher when they can get their answer straight from ChatGPT?

What are the key trends in media in 2024?

Firstly, understanding and differentiating between AI machine learning and AI ChatGPT and the implications for us. There are things machines can do more efficiently. As a publisher you can now get basically a traditional magazine article with machine learning. With AI, it can repurpose it, break it down into a TikTok, into an Instagram feed. It can summarise it, put pictures and put video to it. But that’s not generative AI, which is our threat. We welcome all manner of machine learning – with human oversight and certain guidelines.

There are so many tools out there to basically make our publishing more efficient and faster and more productive, but obviously with the provisor that we then are going to apply it to doing new content and new journalism. The second is the rise of niche vertical, niche publishing and us seeing many B2C publishers making the transition to B2B with a great deal of success. And a third one is the definitive decoupling between publishing and social media.

What is the best business advice you have ever received?

That good journalism is good business and if it’s not good business, it’s not good journalism. And the implications of that are: stick to your knitting. There are always big, new shiny things, but stick to your knitting.

Come and hear Juan Señor as well as connect with an unparalleled global network of industry colleagues and join 500 decision-makers from more than 40 countries at the 46th FIPP World Media Congress. See the list of speakers here and the agenda here. Tickets here.