Tips from the top

Six chief executives took part in ‘View from the Top’ panel sessions at the PPA Festival. James Evelegh heard what they had to say.

By James Evelegh

Tips from the top
At the PPA Festival (L-R): moderator Evan Davis, James Tye (Dennis), Andria Vidler (Centaur), James Wildman (Hearst). Photograph: PPA

At the recent PPA Festival, we were treated to two ‘View from the Top’ panel sessions, where publishing chief executives gave us their take on the state of the industry.

This is what I came away with:

  1. Depth not breadth is the new creed. We should drill deep into our sectors, become part of the community and invest heavily to provide a 360 offering, rather than spread ourselves too thinly across multiple sectors. Centaur is in the process of divesting itself of four of its five divisions so that it can focus on just one (Xeim).
  2. For B2B and niche consumer brands, the future is in paid-for content. For New Scientist, this now accounts for two thirds of its revenues.
  3. For generalist consumer sectors, reach and advertising are still vitally important. For these titles, it’s all about working (even) harder and getting better at selling digital advertising, as well as diversifying into other revenue streams, like events. And, for some, it’s working! Hearst’s James Wildman reported that they had halted the decline and were back in growth.
  4. Quality counts. This means investing in our product, its journalism and the user experience, both in print and digital. This is a happy departure from the ‘content as commodity’ thinking that the industry briefly flirted with a few years back.
  5. Growth is not only desirable, but a business necessity. “If you’re not growing, then someone else is eating your market share”, said Dennis’ James Tye. Dennis had, he said, grown every year since 2009.
  6. Stop whingeing about the tech companies! As an industry, we need to get on the front foot. That means, yes, calling for regulation to create a more level playing field, and lobbying to combat monopolistic practices and abuses but not in any way sitting back and waiting for that to happen.