In the digital age companies should chase audiences rather than revenues, Carla Buzasi, global c.e.o. of WGSN, told the FutureBook conference today (14th November).
Speaking about her former role as founding editor of The Huffington Post, Buzasi said: “I didn’t have to think about print [versus digital], but we had a legacy publication and that was desktop. Most people started reading on desktop but over three years we saw a significant shift to tablets and smartphones.
"However, the revenues weren’t transitioning as fast as the user, and that’s difficult when the m.d. wants more people reading on desktop because that’s where the revenues are.”
Meanwhile the industry has to give consumers content where they want to consume it, she said, warning that “we sometimes overthink that… We don’t need data or experts to tell us that we all have different screens. You know this, this is how you consume media.”
If you worry about revenues you will end a long way from where the consumers are, giving other businesses the chance to slip into the gap.
“If you don’t cannibalise your own business, someone else will,” Buzasi said, adding: “We know revenues on mobile aren’t where we would like them to be, but what if we could build the audiences to such an extent to offset that?”
Buzasi also said that as long as the content is good, companies can be experimental when it comes to digital.
“I would urge any company to take risks,” she said. “Digital companies are very forgiving of mistakes and technology that doesn’t work properly. We are used to videos on YouTube that don’t buffer very well but give us the information or entertainment we want.”
Buzasi stressed the importance of experimenting with different kinds of social media, pointing out that the “Instagram queens of this world” are now getting book deals, but admitted it’s not always easy. “I know it’s not without its pitfalls. It’s not as easy as saying you need to get your authors to blog and tweet.”
The creative industry also has to be able to spot trends before the consumers, she said. “As a creative industry we also have to give people they don’t yet know they want. And if you master the right technologies, that is where riches will fall.”