Varetto: leadership in information in the age of social media

Leadership Series MBA


A reporter: who’s this? It won’t be long before someone starts asking. Even if not precisely this way, the question seemed to hover during the latest meeting of the Full-time MBA‘s “Leadership Series” with Sarah Varetto,  European Director for News Development, Sky News, and leading journalist in the TV network. In her role it would have been easy to play the public defender of the category, dismissing as “non-journalistic” any information that gushes from the internet. Varetto on the other end has been able to deal with the complex issue of journalism at the time of blogs, social networks and YouTube in a “secular” and non-corporative way. Dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s of the word “information”.


Information has become a strategic asset even for those companies that had little to do with the media industry until not long ago. “We are facing a watershed challenge in history,” Varetto says. “Until some years ago our competitors were the other national TV networks; but today Facebook is the first provider of news. Take the Dow Jones Index. In the last five years the top five positions have completely changed, now we have the Tech Giants at the top: they are the new global competitors in the information as well as in the entertainment industry.”


But along with the players, the rules of the game have changed as well: “As a journalist I am responsible for what I say on TV, and my publisher too,” Varetto points out, “but this does not apply to the information delivered by the Tech Giants: Facebook and YouTube are not responsible for the contents they publish. Social media have undoubtedly broadened access to information and boosted real time news. They have been a positive stimulus for traditional media. But I wonder why responsibility – which is the keyword in this profession –– should not apply to them as well.”


If the arena widens, you have to find new winning strategies. According to Varetto there are three battle fronts: “now the competition is on content, user experience, and platforms. For instance, we can no longer think of ourselves as a TV network alone because streaming has become the most important means of broadcasting”. Channels and user experience, though, gravitate around content, which remains the real product of the cultural industry. But in the era of digital proliferation content is facing the risk of “commoditization”. “That is why,” Varetto concludes, “the challenge of innovation should never make us forget that the crucial competitive factor is the quality and uniqueness of contents.” Which have always been the basic ingredients of every success story.


SDA Bocconi School of Management

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