The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the roadmap of the fashion industry, making digital transformation a top priority. What will happen to printed magazines? How do you make yourself stand out on the web? How do you win over the new generations? These are some of the keys that Amaya Ascunce, the current Digital Director of ELLE Spain, has revealed to us. A digital guru and literary critic from Navarre. Take due note of her answers, because sometimes a crisis can become an opportunity.
You started out as an editor. How did you take the leap to the digital world? And to the fashion world?
I started in printed form with beauty and health, but during my degree I did the final project for a newspaper in html. That was a rare occurrence in 2001, as there weren't many people who knew how to programme, and although as a journalist I didn't need it, it has always been a plus that has helped me to do many things on my own and to understand processes and possibilities. I came to fashion through beauty, since they are closely related in magazines.
Have you always been aware of the potential of the internet?
I have always loved the digital environment. I'm what's called a heavy user, anything they launch gets me hooked. I love trying out formats, networks, surfing for hours... And I've always thought that it has a great power. Above all, it allows you to produce content at a very low cost and reach a large audience if you have something interesting to say.
It also allows you to create a lot of niche content. Someone who is very fond of one subject can get in touch with another person on the other side of the world who also likes jasmine-based perfumes. The problem is how mainstream media with expensive structures and production costs fit into this scheme. The chessboard has changed.
How has the pandemic changed the future scenario for fashion magazines?
Printed fashion and non-fashion magazines are suffering a lot. Advertising has plummeted at a time when there was already a crisis in the sector due to the fall in printed copies. It also makes it very difficult to produce stories, and the pandemic is forcing us to adapt much more quickly.
That being said, I think they will always exist, but they have to become luxury items. Something similar to what happened with vinyl. They are still sold but it is the minority, special, key piece... And then streaming reaches the masses. I don't think the future is only on the web, and even less so if the web is free. Unlimited free content is not sustainable indefinitely.
It seems that the pandemic has also slowed down the pace of fashion shopping. Do you think it's an illusion or a trend that's here to stay?
I think it’s the same as the printed magazine sector. It’s the result of two crises. Saturation began to emerge from excess buying, collections, clothes that we throw away... And the pandemic has shown us that we don't need to wear something new every week.
Although I think that when things get back to normal, there will be more clothing bought than now, of course. Everyone wants to wear crazy things: mini skirts, pink tones, lots of feathers... After so many leggings and tracksuits, it's normal.
Generation Z was born with a tablet under their arm. How would you define them as fashion information consumers?
I think they have a different ideal body image. You only have to look at the strong bodies of singers who are the stars of these generations. This also changes fashion, the way of dressing and even the functions of clothing.
They seem to be freer, and what they ask of fashion allows them to adapt it more than previous generations. Besides, it seems to me that there are no longer any boundaries: genres, influences, tribes... Everything seems more mixed.
Does this generation read in print?
I don't think they read newspapers or magazines and I have my doubts about books. I think they read a lot but not in print.
What are the keys to a good digital strategy?
This question is complicated because it is one thing to have an audience and another to have revenue. The key for the audience is to have good content. Something true, good stories, and being clear and loyal to those who read about you. That makes people share you, follow you, even if Google changes its algorithm. Facebook makes you pay to boost your visibility and Instagram only wants you to do reels...
If you do it well, the public follows you. The problem is profitability. I don't have the key but I think it's a kind of Spotify of the media. One part free and access to a lot of more exclusive content with a paywall. And at the moment, that includes a lot of video. We're not just talking about articles, of course, but also podcasts.
What do you think about Big Data?
Every now and then there's a boom on the Internet. We've gone from influencer marketing to big data now. I think it's useful and very interesting but you have to know what it’s for and how to manage it. It's the same as with influencers, all brands launched campaigns but many realised what they were or not interested in, or their audience didn't follow them, or they didn't manage to change...
They are tools but you have to know if they are useful for your product. Hype is not always for everyone. Or not just in any way. That said, what could be more interesting than having access to an audience that is looking for you or wants to buy from you? Well done, it will be very useful.
What advice would you give to a brand that is just starting out and wants to go 100 percent digital?
I think that the most important thing is for them to have their own game board. That they use the different tools to reach their client (networks, Google, Seo, Sem, whatever) but that they have their own home (a website for example, something that belongs to them and on which they can build in the long term). There are people who only have something on IG, for example, and they change the algorithm to show you your fans and you stop seeing 80 percent of them. You must have alternatives. And the next thing is to be very honest and sincere. The Internet doesn't allow for smoke and mirrors because you always get feedback.
Your first book started from a blog. Would you say that in a way the internet has been your patron?
For me it has been an incredible tool that has allowed me to reach an audience that would otherwise have been impossible. And all this from my home, with a tacky design and a laptop. And those followers opened the doors of a publishing house like Planeta for me.
I think you have recently made your debut in the world of newsletters. Why do you think this new way of communicating is proving so successful?
Yes, it's called "Leer por leer" (https://amayaascunce.substack.com/), and I already have more than 3000 subscribers. I think there is a boom now (like podcasts) because they are a very good tool for creators. It allows you freedom and also has the advantage of not depending on networks or Google to reach people where the mainstream media play hard and small creators find it more complicated.
What’s more, newsletters allow payment by subscription. In the United States there are writers who make a living from that. I think that free quality content is something that is going to disappear, or at least in part. Because creators need to make a living from their work. In my case it's more of a hobby. I love reading and I feel like writing and the newsletter allows me to set the rules for frequency, content... And also, I don't depend on social networks.
What do you like most about social networks? And what do you like the least?
What I like most is that they put people in contact with each other. I have met many people and have great friends thanks to social networks. Also, they give a small person a big voice. But in general I would say that I don't like them. They are created to spend a lot of time on them, and I think they are a great source of dissatisfaction. Things aren’t always what they seem. It happens to all of us.
I myself always end up posting pretty things... It's OK, I'm 42 years old... But sometimes I think how a teenager can live with the pressure of seeing all the faces with filters. And then look at herself in the mirror. Life is not social networks. Not at all. Maybe in a couple of generations we'll know how to use them better.
Give us a digital forecast for 2021...
I'm not very good at being a guru... I said in 2008 that Facebook was finished, so imagine that! But well, I'm going to go for it. I think there will continue to be a boom in video, and more so in streaming. The younger generations consume a lot of video. Podcasts are going to have a lot of advertising investment and in Spain newsletters are going to have a lot of readers. Let's see if I get it right this time, or at least a bit more than in 2008. I think we are living in a moment in which everything has to be real, of course. In digital, on paper, on a catwalk, or even in my own newsletter... People want true stories.
This article was originally published on FashionUnited.ES
Crédito de foto: Amaya Ascunce, Freepik.