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5 minutes with… Alastair Lewis

Ahead of the 2024 FIPP World Media Congress, we grab five minutes with FIPP MD Alastair Lewis to get his thoughts on the outlook for magazine media.

By Alastair Lewis

5 minutes with… Alastair Lewis
Mbali Soga from Media24 in South Africa talking to Alastair Lewis at last year’s Congress.

Q: What are the strategic choices facing magazine media?

A: There are myriad strategic choices facing media owners today, and magazines are in most cases, just one element… however I think it all really boils down to one key factor which is knowing who you serve and what your value to them is… once you have clarity on the audience and how you can provide value to that audience, you can then do a much better job of packaging your content, products, services etc in a way that is going to work hardest for you and best suits the audience. And, of course, a magazine might be one way to do that, but so might a mobile app, an event, a website or a streaming service – whichever of those, the key strategic choice has to start with audience.

Q: Where do you expect growth to come from?

A: Growth will continue to be driven by diversification – multiple, ideally recurring, revenue streams are the way forward and have been for some time. Whether that’s a focus on digital subscriptions or membership offerings, e-commerce, licensing (content but also product), but also in some cases finding smart ways to re-package and remonetise evergreen content in new ways – this may be special, one off luxury print editions, bookazines, part works or deep dive spin offs from the core brand.

Q: What on the tech landscape should publishers be keeping an eye on?

A: I’m afraid it’s impossible to answer this without referencing AI… Publishers really should be leaning into AI this year. Whether that’s finding smart tools to help your newsroom or editorial team work more efficiently and effectively, or using machine learning to predict audience behaviour and thus better target advertising (as Dotdash Meredith have been doing), or by training an LLM on your own site to serve your subscribers by offering an ‘Answers’ service to free text questions – something that could be hugely beneficial for data and info rich sites with large archives and information hungry users… one way or another, all publishers should be ‘leaning in’ to AI as best they can.

Q: What trends and opportunities are you seeing in international content licensing?

A: Global is back! I guess as the head of an organisation dedicated to helping publishers grow their international business, you might think I would say that, but we are definitely seeing a real movement of media owners looking to extend into new territories – some via a licensing or partnership route, some via digital content syndication – others by finding more innovative approaches to a franchise style model, enabling the brand owner to handle and control key assets whilst at the same time offering an opportunity for local partners to grow a business in their market. Already this year at FIPP, we have welcomed several UK and US publishers as new members, specifically joining in order to access our community of publishers around the world, better understand the opportunities in markets outside of their own, and connect with potential partners. I expect, as publishers are ever more confident in their core business models at home, we will see more of this over the course of the coming months and years.

Q: What can publishers learn from their counterparts overseas?

A: So much! I especially think UK publishers can learn a lot from businesses overseas who have had to find more innovative, direct, revenue streams, often with smaller audiences to target rather than chasing big scale as many have done here. Those more audience-focused approaches, and finding ways of connecting with and monetising those audiences directly, are now the kinds of models we are seeing applied more widely.

Q: What can magazine media learn from news media and vice versa?

A: This is a really great question and something I have been pondering a lot in the last few years that I have been lucky enough to be working with some of the UK’s best local news media, having been fully a magazine media specialist for the first 20 years of my career. I would say magazine media would do well to learn from how news media manage to create so much quality content with (often) such small teams, and under such tight time pressure, day in, day out – it is so impressive. On the other hand, news media could really learn from a magazine’s ability to really know and understand its audience. The connection a good magazine will have with its audience is something many news media really need to find if they are to drive successful paid models going forward – and I think magazines tend to do that very well.

Q: What advice would you give attendees at FIPP World Media Congress on how they can get the most out of their visit?

A: I would heartily recommend making sure you either arrive early or extend your stay beyond just the two main days of the Congress. Cascais is a wonderful town and within easy reach of Lisbon, Sintra and many other beautiful places to explore. As for the Congress itself, plan your day around the sessions you don’t want to miss… work out when you have gaps for networking, and use the booking system to ‘huddle’ with contacts you’d like to meet or re-acquaint with. And bring sunglasses, sunscreen and appropriate attire – it can be really warm!

About us

The 46th FIPP World Media Congress takes place from 4-6 June at the Pestana Cidadela in Cascais, Portugal, our home for the past two years, in what is a special year for FIPP as we turn 99!

Congress is the heartbeat of the worldwide magazine media industry. It is the only real gathering of the global magazine media community and adjacent sectors annually, including creators, publishers, technologists, and other industry service providers.