Earlier this year I spoke at Samir Husni’s ACT 9 event in Mississippi. One of my fellow speakers was James Hewes, who heads up FIPP. His talk really struck a chord – he presented figures and data that backed up so much that we at magCulture instinctively believe. So we’re excited to have him join the line-up for magCulture Live. He talks here about his role and his love for magazines.
What are you doing today?
I’m sat on a Eurostar heading back from Paris. Yesterday, we ran one of our FIPP Insider events there. These are one-day, free-to-attend events designed to showcase the best local and international speakers to a local audience. This week, we had speakers from Paris Match (below) and Prisma Media, among others, and an engaged audience of publishing people, which is always great to see.
We’ve been running these events for a couple of years now. So far we’ve done them in Chile, Argentina, South Africa, the US, Canada, Italy, Spain and loads of other places. They’re such a great way for us to connect with the media community in individual markets.
They really showcase what FIPP is all about – knowledge sharing and networking in the media and publishing industry.
Who/what inspired you to work in magazine publishing?
Magazines have always been part of my life but when I was a kid it seemed like an impossible, unattainable goal to ever work in this industry. I can remember the thrill of subscribing to my first title, the agonising monthly wait for it to drop through the letterbox. I was lucky enough to grow up overseas, so English-language magazines were a bit of a rare treat when I was a kid, as there wasn’t the sophisticated international distribution networks that we have today.
Later on, once I’d moved back to the UK, there was the sheer overwhelming joy of going into WH Smith in the 1990s, to be confronted with a dizzying array of magazines on every subject under the sun, with exciting new titles seemingly launching every week. Every house, every room I’ve ever lived in has always had magazines piled up everywhere. Even today, I’ve got boxes full of mags in the garage!
They say you need some luck in your career and that certainly was the case for me. I was working in a bank when I saw an advert in the Sunday Times for a job at the BBC, so I applied. Somehow I got it. My first project was working on Radio Times and a couple of years later I was asked to project manage the launch of a food magazine, Olive. It still amazes me that now, nearly 20 years after I started in the industry, I’m now head of the global trade association for the industry. Not bad for a bloke who was unemployed for six months when he left university!
Tell us about FIPP
Well I guess the first thing to say is that we’re older than you might expect. We think the organisation started in the 1920s, as a way for French and Spanish publishers to meet regularly and swap ideas over dinner. We know that the first edition of our Congress took place in 1925 in Paris. This year we’ll be holding the 42nd Congress in Las Vegas, which I guess is as about as far removed from that original gathering as you can get.
We are a global trade association with strong roots in the magazine industry, although we increasingly have members from across the media spectrum. We exist to promote and encourage cross-border trade, knowledge-sharing and networking. Our flagship events are the Digital Innovators’ Summit, which takes place every year in March in Berlin, and the FIPP World Media Congress, the next edition of which is November 12-14 in Las Vegas.
How can magazines make a difference in 2019?
It’s interesting – in my job, I get to hear from a lot companies and meet a lot of people across the world and there’s a real sense that printed magazines are starting to find their long-term place in the media mix. The move towards investing in print, with more resources for journalism and better production values, often coupled with a lower print run and higher cover price, is increasingly positioning print as the luxury medium it should rightfully be.
The independent sector has been massively pioneering in this respect and I think mainstream publishers have learned a lot from the way smaller entities have approach print in recent years. Long may that continue!
Who are you looking forward to hearing/meeting at magCulture live London 2019?
I’m looking forward to the whole programme really! It’s just great to be at an event that celebrates the medium that I love so much.
James will be speaking at magCulture Live on 7 November.