At yesterday evening’s 3rd Future of Media and Publishing Meetup in central London the topic of innovation and disruption was, not surprisingly, centre stage. Alongside, of course, the plentiful pizzas and beer.
The choice of pizza was particularly apt seeing that just a few blocks away in London’s Silicon Roundabout the great and the good of the crypto community were celebrating Bitcoin Pizza Day, named after a programmer who paid 10,000 bitcoins for 2 Papa John’s pizzas just eight short years ago.
If nothing else, it reminded everyone present at the 3rd FoMP that no one has a crystal ball and that predicting the future is tricky. And then some.
Hosted by Bibblio, the AI-driven content recommendation platform, the 3rd FoMP witnessed some of the UK’s most pioneering publishers take the stage to discuss the current state of publishing as well as expound their views over what the future holds.
Speakers and panellists included Adam Flint, a leading digital authority on global fashion media; Emily Wilson, the Head of UK Consumer Marketing at Oath; Sophie Rochester, the Founder and CEO of Yodomo, an online publishing platform for premium lifestyle tutorials; Louise Tierney, Director of Data at SAM, a real-time knowledge engine; Katie Roden, a content marketing and publishing strategist; and finally Toby Abel, CTO at Krzana, a newsgathering engine.
- Adam Flint, a digital veteran who has overseen digital initiatives at some of the world’s top publishers, including CNN online, urged publishers to ‘Test quick, build smart, be awesome’. In short, act like a startup, be fleet of foot and when innovating be the best you can possibly be.
- Flint was especially critical of strategies and ‘roadmaps’ where the solution is already pre-defined with little mention of either the end benefit or eventual goal. That, he said, was a recipe for disaster and allowed for little out-of-the-box thinking or innovation. Publishers, he argued, needed to view change not as a failure but as a positive. As he stated, change is the only constant.
- His final words were to urge the publisher audience to try things out, learn as you go and not to rush to immediate judgement – “What might appear to be a failure could be a success”.
- At the panellist session which included Emily Wilson, Sophie Rochester, Katie Roden and Louise Tierney, the subject of GDPR inevitably cropped up. The overriding view was that GDPR was giving publishers a renewed opportunity to build a tighter, closer-knit community of users. Data drop offs were perceived to be inconsequential, “Who cares if 20% of users drop off?”
- This argument was taken further by an example given where 75% opted out in Canada but of the readers who remained, they were all super-engaged and it had no impact on sales.
- Moderator Mads Holmen spoke about why getting the content as personalised as possible was vital, before telling the audience how Spotify has learnt via its algorithms that the music people listen to is as much dependent on where they are and what they’re doing as anything else. i.e. when driving a car, users listen to different music than if they were at work.
- When Mads asked the panelists about content personalisation, the answer was unequivocal, “It’ll be driven by tech rather than content” but “never assume what the person wants.”
- The subject of giving the user what they want was further expanded by the example of the New York Times and their coverage of the Las Vegas shooting using an innovative timeline of the story. This example was cited as a “great way of reaching the audience” but with the caveat that “it’s not about reinventing the wheel but just thinking about the user.”
- The final presentation by Toby Abel was an example of how young people coming into publishing are the great disruptors. Not hampered by legacy structures or slow-moving management, Abel demonstrated how the future of publishing belongs to the new generation entering the workplace. Not only are they able to view publishing through fresh eyes, they have the passion and drive to bring their products to market. Abel’s AI-powered platform, Krzana, allows publishers to surface pre-news and uncover the narratives behind local and global events before they actually become news.
If nothing else, the 3rd FoMP demonstrated that publishers who will succeed over the coming years need to innovate fast, take risks but also firmly put the user at the centre of all they do.
The 4th FoMP will take place in September 2018 and the date will be announced on WNIP’s Twitter feed in due course, as well as listed in our events section.