The 41st FIPP World Congress took place in London's Tobacco Dock from 9-11 October 2017 and BrightGen, in conjunction with Salesforce, sponsored a stand in the marketplace. I decided to go along for the first full day on the 10th as it looked like a good opportunity to expand my knowledge of the industry and inform the roadmap for our BrightMedia development.

With Dreamforce 2017 less than four weeks away, it was very much at the forefront of my mind, and I was struck by the contrasts between this and a typical Salesforce event:

Numbers

Salesforce events often define themselves by size ("Be part of the largest technology conference in the world!"). FIPP very much takes the opposite approach - they don't want swathes of juniors from the industry attending, but a smaller number of decision makers. A real international feel though, with delegates from 45 different countries making the trip.

Breakout Sessions

Even when breakout sessions are on at Dreamforce, the Expo hall will be packed. At FIPP, everyone went to the breakout sessions and the marketplace was deserted. This was clearly the expectation of how the day would work, plus all attendees were on the equivalent of full conference passes and no doubt wanted to make the most of the learning opportunity.

Keynote

This was a real departure from the sort of thing I'm used to as FIPP doesn't have a product per se - it's a global trade association for the media content industry. After the initial introduction from the CEO, the honorary Chairman, Jerzy Baczynski gave a sobering talk on media market freedom. After this we had two twenty minute deep dives, from Wolfgang Blau, President of Condé Nast International, UK and "When Opposites are brilliantly successful in Publishing" from James Tye, CEO of Dennis

Another stark difference in the keynotes was the tone. Salesforce keynotes are relentlessly upbeat because it typically is good news across the ecosystem. There are challengers, but Salesforce is the market leader and continues to grow a clip. Publishers, on the other hand, are under threat - from populist movements, fake news, piracy, and social media giants - making for a much more cautious keynote. It overran though, so very similar to Salesforce keynotes in that respect!

Breakout Content

Most of the breakout sessions that I go to at Salesforce events are teaching me how to do something at a pretty low level. The breakouts at FIPP were much more about success stories - explaining how an audience had been grown, a business transformed, a new publication successfully launched - and at a high level. The other major difference was that I'm a rookie in this space so almost everything was new to me, rather than reinforcing or slightly extending my existing knowledge.

The most interesting session that I attended was "Strategic Roadmap for Organisational Transformation" delivered by Lucy Küng, Google News Initiative Research Fellow, Reuters Institute for Journalism, Oxford University, Switzerland. My key takeaway from this session was that publishers are keen to transform themselves to meet the challenges of the digital world, but need to be wary of trying to imitate Silicon Valley companies too closely. The Silicon Valley startups can pivot to a new model very quickly as:
  • they typically aren't carrying much if any legacy baggage
  • they are often extremely well funded so can spend a lot of money trying to penetrate a market before walking away
  • they don't necessarily feel the same responsibility for society unless public opinion/regulators force them to
  • Established publishers can shift focus, but it is likely to be a much bigger ship to steer so it is vital to ensure that the entire organisation is moving in the same direction.

    A topic that came up time and time again was the rise of social media. Most publishers are using Facebook, Instagram and co to grow their audience, but at the cost of giving away content that the social media giants can then monetise. They really are caught between a rock and a hard place here, as the audience they are chasing is likely to be almost exclusively on social media so the choice is between gifting profits to competitors or accepting a shrinking audience, with all the downsides that entails. With Facebook's recent $610 million bid for the rights to stream Indian cricket matches this looks like becoming more rather than less of a challenge. Where the publishers do have some leverage is that they are trusted brands. The social media companies have been receiving a fair bit of negative coverage around promotion of fake news, the influence of bots, and algorithm generated filter bubbles.As part of their attempts to turn this around, they are looking to the established, trusted, media to add legitimacy and that should force some concessions.

    Overall a very interesting day spent finding out a little more about what this industry looks like from the point of view of our media customers - if nothing else it got me out of my tech-focused bubble!

    Keir Bowden is CTO of BrightGen, a Certified Technical Architect and multi-time Salesforce MVP - you can find him on twitter @bob_buzzard.