FutureBook: Bonnier's BookBeat to grow in UK and Germany

FutureBook: Bonnier's BookBeat to grow in UK and Germany

There is "no doubt" that people and companies are willing to pay for value-added smart products and services Bonnier AB's chief digital officer Anki Ahrnell has told delegates at The Bookseller's Futurebook Conference, adding "we just have to go do it".

Ahrnell, whose remit to strengthen digital transition and product development is Bonnier-wide, said while the industry was facing a "kodak moment", ie. in decline, there was a wealth of opportunities to be seized as the result of the digital revolution. 

Subscriptions and advertising revenue streams for other media are falling, Ahrnell said, but the books business is "a very stable business for the time being". She also said Bonnier AB's books business, which forms a quarter of its revenues, was one of the "most passionate" and "most curious" parts of the company. 

The big challenge for the business was not "missing opportunities", but rather that there were so many, Ahrnell said, emphasising that prioritsation is key. 

"We have to choose and we have to experiment and we have to get into this agile business development process: testing and testing and testing. Because there are tons of opportunities," she said. "The old world was so simple, simple products and simple business models, now we're entering into a world that is so fragmented - there are thousands of products and services - with many possiblities and many revenues models." 

It is important to understand consumer needs and behaviours and "eventual pain points", the Bonnier digital chief said, from ordering to payments, considering price models including subscriptions, single fees, transaction fees, utilisation fees, revenue sharing and bundles.

She gave three examples to inspire the audience: BookTrack, which while "not rocket science", could "change how people read stories"; River Cottage "a true Food vertical", creating a hub for foodies and offering cookery courses, dining experiences and events, and BookBeat, a Bonnier Books subscriptions start-up, offering an unlimited amount of audiobooks to readers' smartphones. It has utilised a data-driven strategy since day one and is now the main challenger in Sweden, second to Storytell, and the market leader in Finland, Ahrnell said. Its aim is now to "improve, grow and expand" in the UK and Germany, she added.

Four areas of "the utmost importance" in the new technology space to watch are virtual reality, which investors from the likes of Google and Disney "believe is going to change the world"; big data and AI (artificial intelligence); bots and new research, which Ahrnell predicted would not only change search but become the new recommendation engine; and the "internet of things".

"You have to have a lot of curves going upwards," Ahrnel said. "Small seeds you are watering and nursing and seeing to that they grow. Otherwise you will have nothing. Go ahead and do it, build a door."