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Future CEO Stevie Spring's top tips for digital success

Stevie Spring
Speaking at an Olswang event yesterday 'free media - making it pay', Future Publishing CEO Stevie Spring gave a robust, no nonsense list of tips for digital success, in the month that Future's digital revenues reached 25%. AOP was there to hear Spring's advice:

1. Selling the 'who-many', not the 'how many'

Digital can be a "licence to lose money", so a robust strategy is essential.

Future’s flagship Radar and Digg-style aggregator Blip microsites (the latter built with the technology made available through Future’s acquisition of BallHype) are continuing to develop well-defined user communities, which are "the way forward.. search is just as important as the quality of your content."

2. Never bet the farm

This one speaks for itself, said the Future CEO.

3. How not to lose your shirt online

'Do and learn' (not the other way around - "everything is moving so fast, there isn’t time to 'learn and do'").

Spring calls this approach ‘favery’, or "bravery, with a teensy hint of fear".

4. Caveat Emptor

"It’s tempting to buy your way online, and very easy to overpay - It’s easy to believe the one eyed man in the kingdom of the blind."

If you’re buying traffic, the Future CEO warned, this is never going to be a secure purchase.

If you're buying employees, you’ll face the challenge of turning entrepreneurs into intrapreneurs. Not an easy task, some might say.

"Online, you can never predict the returns, only cost" said Spring.

5. Forecast shmorecast

"All forecasts will be wrong - do the sums on how much you’re prepared to gamble," she said.

Expensive, bandwidth-heavy content, such as video, "may drive the wrong type of traffic, for example, the type that doesn’t want to be interrupted by ads", and switches off immediately.

In summary, we should be looking at:

Cost of providing content vs. eyeballs vs. ad dollars that these particular eyeballs bring.

6. Internet natives rule

If you’re a 'internet immigrant', i.e. over 40, surround yourself by internet natives. The average age of Future employees is under 30, said Spring.

7. Functionality over form

Functionality, including speed and efficiency, are if anything more important than form.

Content should be dolled out in small servings, often - "think snacking, not fine dining."

8. Your key employees

Your Chief Technology Officer is your most important employee, said the Future chief. Also, a new and different type of creative Ad Director is required for your digital business. You are, after all, relying on ads for the majority of your revenues.

9. Paid Content

According to Spring, only "business-critical information" such as that on niche B2B sites can form a successful paid content model.

10. Pace yourself

"More isn’t always better - Buying search traffic burns money at an eye-watering rate," She advised: "manage your bottom line and increase your marketing spend as you grow."

11. Eat or be eaten

You can’t be afraid to cannibalise your own revenues: "if you don’t do it, someone else will."

12. Bring a slice

The Australian term for ‘potluck’ also applies. "Sharing, link love and alliances" are the way forward.

To give one example, Future’s US ‘orphan title’ Pregnancy in the US didn’t have the benefit of a massive online development budget, hence the title is currently growing its online presence as the host for an affiliate network - just one of many such experiments for the innovative publisher, whose online revenues have grown considerably in the last quarter.

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