The publishing industry in today's digital era and
entrepreneurship in Asia
in Marketing & Creativity Class of 2014, reveals to us that
print is most certainly not dead and how digital has only made the
industry evolve. She also tells us about the excitement of starting
a business in Asia.
What is your current position?
I am currently a regional director of business
development for a Singaporean company called AccelerAsia. The
company helps European and American startups enter Asian markets.
We essentially 'test the waters' for them and recommend on which
markets would be most fruitful for their products. We then manage
all these accounts until they are stable enough to set up an
independent office in Asia. I am responsible for three tech
companies who are interested in entering and expanding into Hong
Kong, Thailand, Philippines and Taiwan.
What was your position before starting at ESCP Europe?
Before joining ESCP Europe, I was working for my family's
publishing company based in Rome, Italy. They focus on very niche
print publications and small gadgets for distribution in
traditional kiosk stands. When I say niche, I really mean it. I'm
referring to magazines dedicated entirely to knitting, fishing or
religion. The type that makes you wonder who on earth would ever
buy one. In other words, magazines that most people (including my
freshly graduated self) would find old fashioned and
Today, I know that not everything needs to be digital and
glossy to be successful. In fact, outside urban cities, those
traditional kiosk stands remain a major distribution channel that
reaches a huge part of the population. This may not necessarily be
the case for certain content brands, but it is definitely the case
for all other products that fit into the channel e.g. collectables,
figurines, calendars, stickers, colouring books, selfie sticks or
beach toys imported from China.
Still, at the time, my dream was to get involved with the digital
side of things to find new ways to market an old
What was it like working for a print publication in today's
digital age? Are you finding that this industry has had to really
think creatively given this new challenge?
Newspapers and magazines have always got people excited.
Having your face printed on a newspaper was a sign of success,
promoting your product on a magazine would drive up revenues and
being a columnist would give you power. Unfortunately, I am part of
a generation that saw this excitement fade away and move to
screens. It all happened very fast. Risk-takers started marketing
themselves by creating blogs and it seemed they were winning over
Surprisingly, we are now seeing digital publishers recognise the
value of print and producing physical copies to support the content
they post online. I guess they realised that people don't pay to
read something on a website. They pay to flick through glossy
I am struggling to select a good example to mention
because there are so many! I think the most talked about magazine
for this topic was Newsweek which is a
leading American news publication. The magazine completely
abandoned its print version in 2012 to solely focus on digital as
they, like many, thought print was dead. Two years later, Newsweek
announced they would start printing again.
Another top publication that comes to mind is CNET magazine. What I
find most interesting is how much print publications are valued by
digital giants of various industries. The luxury fashion online
retailer Net-A-Porter launched the print edition of their online
Edit in 2014 as print still remains the highest read form of
fashion content. One more digital giant that turned to print is
Airbnb's magazine Pineapple. Everyone
talks of a battle between digital and print when, the truth is,
they are not mutually exclusive at all.
I love that. So in your opinion, print is not dead, it is merely a
valuable extension of the content you find online?
Print is most certainly not dead, just like TV and radio.
Weren't they meant to die years ago? What print is doing is merely
evolving. Sales of poor quality and mass-market printings might be
decreasing but there is a new appreciation for hardback copies.
Holding a physical piece of content that someone bothered
designing, printing, binding and distributing feels more precious,
important and reliable. That's why people feel more honoured to be
interviewed for an issue that is going to be printed rather than a
blog. It is also why a nice hardcover still makes a great present
and a url doesn't. I think this is the case for anything that is
printed, whether it's newspapers, magazines, books, letters or
leaflets. Comparing digital to print is like comparing a Primark
bag to a Prada one. You don't buy a Prada because you need a
container to carry your phones and keys. Online content does the
job, but it is not kept on people's bookshelves. I'd want my brands
to do both.
Please tell me a bit about your career path since graduating the
MSc in Marketing and Creativiy.
Towards the end of the course, the Msc in Marketing and
Creativity professors announced that the digital department
of Hearst Magazines UK
(publisher of titles such as Elle,
Cosmopolitan and Esquire) would offer
two positions to our class. It couldn't have turned out more
perfectly when I was offered one of roles. After my time at Hearst,
I moved on to writing supplementary industry reports for newspapers
such as The Guardian and The Times which
brought me to Malaysia, Mexico and the Philippines. I was
essentially interviewing political figures and CEOs operating in
fast growing economies and selling advertising to back the report.
As a marketer, I got excited by the huge opportunities arising in
Southeast Asia and ended up staying in the Philippines to do just
that: help companies explore these 'mysterious' markets. My first
account was a company called Kiosked, which has
become the leading Advertising and Automation platform helping
digital publishers generate more revenue with programmatic ad
What is it about the startup world that stimulates you? Do you
think this is a great time to start your own business?
I'm a little cheater here because I work with startups
that have already raised millions and are already well established
in Western markets. I am basically only involved with the fun stage
of working in a startup: growth. Still, there probably couldn't be
a better time to start a business especially in the UK where
government schemes try to incentivise entrepreneurs in every way
they can. I hear of people getting some sort of interest from
investors every week. Yes, 90% of them will fail, but, as cliché as
it may sound, simply trying to start something of your own is by
far the best creativity module you could ever take.
Do you find yourself having to be creative at work?
All the time. And I don't think I could have moved to
this many places or done this many things if I hadn't been in all
my jobs. I had debated on whether to pursue my studies in marketing
until the very last minute. In fact, I think I kept debating it
throughout my studies too. There's a big stigma attached to 'girls
who study marketing' and they are often thought of as lazy students
who just want to have fun and end up re-arranging consumer products
in supermarkets for a living. But everyday is a reminder of how
creativity and marketing are really the only things you need to
make products sell and businesses work.
How easy or hard is it to start your own business in Southeast
People in Europe only ever think of Southeast Asia as a gap-year
or honeymoon destination. But the opportunities here are huge,
especially in developing countries where a lot of products and
services don't even exist. You can often be the first one to
introduce something and it would not be because someone has tried
and failed before, but because, very simply, no one has bothered
looking into it yet. I'm not saying it's a piece of cake but there
is definitely a lot of space for business.
Whom do you consider to be your influencers? What websites/blogs
do you regularly check?
Anyone and anything that pops up on my LinkedIn. Plus Campaign Asia, Tech in Asia and eMarketer.
What advice can you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Ask! Whether it's for advice, money, favours,
introductions... pick up the phone and ask. In the worst case
scenario, you'll have to roll up your sleeves, but you're meant to
do that anyway! Something that might cost you time and effort,
might be effortless for someone else. You'll be surprised at how
many burdens you can skip by just asking. Also, by asking people
for help, you are essentially spreading the word about your project
and expanding your network.
How did the content of the MSc in Marketing and Creativity inspire
the decisions you've made in the past few years?
One of the most memorable classes I attended at ESCP
Europe was taught by Roberto
Berardi, visiting from the Turin campus. I found his experience
with tissue giant Kimberly
Clark very interesting. He had somehow made being in charge of
toilet paper sales sound really fun! I think that was one of the
first times I thought sales might not be as boring as everyone was
making it sound.
Impressed by Jessica's career path and curious to know more about
the programme that equipped her with the tools to get her there?
Check out ESCP Europe's Marketing and Creativity programmes:
The Race to Leverage Content: A Leading Publisher