When we compiled our State of the Media Report 2017, we didn’t include ‘events’ as an option in our question about biggest growth opportunities for publishers. Given that we at TheMediaBriefing have a portfolio of events stretching back many years and see first-hand the increasing demand for the same at other publishers, that was probably a mistake.
Happily, our survey respondents set us right. Over 40 percent of respondents highlighted events as a key area for growth anyway, and I don’t doubt that figure has grown since we conducted the survey.
With media companies like Time Out group and ESI Media doubling down on their events strategies based around editorial expertise, there’s been a notable uptick in how prominently publishers place events as part of their overall strategy. So we thought we’d examine the case for doing so, and provide some pieces of advice from our own experiences of running Digital Media Strategies, the British Media Awards and a number of other events for publishers looking to ride the wave of events.
Why put on an event?
The versatility (and ambiguity) of the ‘event’ means that almost any media company, no matter their size or focus, can put on an event. Whether that’s an awards show/good ol’ networking schmooze-fest or a three day conference, most media companies have the provision and capability to put on an event of some kind.
For B2B companies, most of which go down the conference/trade exhibition route, events are becoming a larger part of their overall revenue.
For publishers like The Pool, however, events are instead on a smaller scale that provides a valuable point of contact between the audience and the creators and brands that advertise with them. That’s especially valuable because the practical limitations of events in terms of their reach can actually be a strength.
In our State of the Media 2017 report (available here), we explained:
“Time-based events can also recreate a scarcity that has been lost in many areas of digital media and draw in sponsors that struggle to get their head around standard advertising propositions.
“In a scale-driven media environment where customers and prospects are over-exposed to digital display and social media, events offer marketers the precision and the space to meet customer groups face-to-face.”
However, no matter how different and diverse the ‘event’ might be, their success always relies upon convincing the attendees that the publisher has expertise they should desire to learn from.
Therefore the publishers who are best able to take advantage of the growth in events are those who have a reputation for expertise in the areas the event will cover. That’s why B2B companies have the edge, being very specific in the type of services they provide and the vertical in which they operate, and why events are only growing as a revenue source in that area.
However, even broader B2C publishers can trade off their expertise in a given area. Time Out, for instance, are expanding their product mix by launching new food markets off the back off a strong performance from their existing market in Lisbon, which was itself based off the recommendations for which it is best known. Its digital CEO Noel Penzer also told us:
“As a business in the last 12 months we’ve really ramped up what we do with live experiences. We’ve got an audience that want to go and experience these things. It plays perfectly into Time Out’s field, that fear of missing out.”
Meanwhile, ESI Media are doubling down on similar endeavours off the back of their reputation (through the Evening Standard). Jon O’Donnell, the managing director of ESI Commercial, explains:
“It’s about using trusted publishers as a conduit to create environments in which brands and consumers can talk and can engage and have a relationship. That’s the role we can play in it which I don’t think it’s possible for [brands] to do on their own, which is why it’s becoming a bigger and bigger part of the media blend.”
Advice from an events company
Given that we write about the media industry, it’s no surprise that we at TMB try to emulate the successful strategies of other media companies. So, following the example of companies like Dennis and Skift, we’ve recently been broadening and diversifying our revenue strategies.
At heart and historically, though, we’re an events-based company. Our conferences like DMS and awards dos like the upcoming British Media Awards are the lifeblood of the company – not just a revenue generating opportunity but also a way for us to keep up to speed with ongoing industry trends (and help to steer them) and catch up with old influential friends. So in the spirit of a ‘The case for’ article, here are a few pieces of advice from a company with a storied history of putting on events.
- Collaborate with your audience… While it’s important that you trade off your expertise in your subject area, it’s always worth listening to your audience for advice on who or what they’d like to see. At TMB we encourage listeners of our podcast to email in suggestions (and are grateful for the ones we receive) and at the events themselves we constantly stay alert for suggestions from the attendees.
- …but remember to flex your expertise muscles. After all, part of the reason your attendees have chosen your event is that you have the expertise in that given area, as Time Out and ESI Media make clear.
- It’s all about the content. Building your agenda, or arranging the schedule to make it just so is of the utmost importance. Without a fantastic speaker line-up or guest speakers ahead of the awards, what do you have to market?
- Remember that international audiences have different expectations. For media companies looking to geoclone their existing conferences or exhibitions, you need to bear in mind that expectations for what constitutes a great event differ geographically. For instance, we’ve found that while in the UK a packed agenda makes for happy attendees, our US events require a much greater amount of time dedicated to networking.
Next week, we’ll examine the case against making events a core part of your strategy.