Digital Publishing Top Stories
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78% millennials choose to spend on “desirable experiences,” making events an important revenue source for publishers: FIPP

hands in the air at concert

Publishers are now looking at events as a serious source of revenue, according to a new FIPP report. The report, “Events in magazine media: How to convert them into a revenue source,” looks into how publishers are using events to attract new advertisers, increase engagement with existing readers and subscribers, as well as independently generate revenue.

“Insulation against economic turbulence”

Jonathan Dorn, Chief Innovation Officer at Active Interest Media (AIM) told FIPP that events can act as “a form of insulation against economic turbulence” when other variables seem to be in flux. AIM claims to generate more than 50% of its revenue from events.

The increasing benefits from events is being driven by the growth of the “experience economy.” According to the report, 78% of millennials choose to spend money on a desirable experience rather than a material product. “People have so many digital experiences these days, they’re craving that live experience more and more,” says Michael Caruso, Editor-in-chief at Smithsonian Magazine.

Regardless of the size of the operation, the bottom line is that people want to engage in person, and there are currently significant opportunities to garner marketing dollars in experiential platforms. 

Jonathan Moore, SVP of Events, Bonnier, USA

“Opportunity to multiply tenfold”

Events can range from festivals and LARPing (Live Action Role Play) to cinema trips and exotic travel. Hearst UK’s events agency Hearst Live ran 100 events in 2018, catering to an audience of 1.3M people—double that of the previous year. 

“Take one of the most engaged magazine brands and you would have historically have secured GBP£30 (US $37) maximum from [each reader] in a year via a subscription. 

“Now, with maximum brand trust and engagement, you have the opportunity to multiply this tenfold with event tickets, travel experiences, beauty boxes and content to commerce affiliate fees,” says Victoria Archbold, Managing Director of Events and Sponsorship at Hearst Live.

Publishers are operating from a position of strength when it comes to events. Most of them already possess the right tools to move into events and turn them into a profitable revenue stream. These include a well-defined target audience, existing channels for promotion, a loyal audience, relevant content and expertise. 

We leverage all our own brand channels, so the benefit of running events and being a media owner is that we’re already talking to the target audience and have built in reach to provide guaranteed ROI.

Leigh Kinross, Managing Director at Associated Media Publishing (AMP)

Event and brand experiences contributed to 26% of AMP’s business last year, according to the report. 

“Some of the most loyal customers to our brand”

The most obvious benefit from events is that they connect publishers with readers face-to-face, making the way to forge stronger relations. 

Archbold says, “with the increase in content channels we consume over nine hours of media exposure a day. For brands and consumers, a live experience can cut through the often-shallow nature of some of this to create deeper connections.”

Good relationships lead to subscriptions. The report recommends publishers focusing on subscription revenue to consider making reader—and by extension, event attendee—relationships central to their strategy.

Customers who experience Nat Geo Live events are some of the most loyal customers to our brand, and most likely to recommend our brand to others. The majority of our respondents report that attending our events increases their interest in watching our channels, subscribing to our magazines, purchasing one of our books, booking travel with us, or shopping on our website.

Natali Freeling, Director of Marketing at National Geographic

The report states that many publishers, “have found that the strength of their brand is enough to drive sales – and that people will part with their money in return for a unique experience from a brand they love.”

Events also promise substantial sponsorship revenue as they guarantee access to a premium audience that would be far harder for sponsors to reach themselves. In fact, most publishers FIPP spoke to for the report, relied on sponsorship as the primary revenue source for events. 

The five Ws

Publishers planning to get into the events business should put their audience front and center, suggests the report. While the nature and size of events would ultimately depend on budget and resources, publishers should focus on designing events that would appeal to the audience they’re trying to reach.

Archbold suggests publishers think in terms of five Ws while planning events. 

The four Ps [price, product, promotion, place] are not as important as they once were” to consumers. When it comes to experience we are seeing them shift to the five Ws – Where am I? Who am I with? What am I doing? Which channel shall I share it via? Why am I or they (the organizer) doing it?

Victoria Archbold, Managing Director of Events and Sponsorship at Hearst Live

According to Freeling, both large and small media companies always find there’s a lot to learn when starting out in the events business. She says, “it’s much easier to start small with a pilot in order to avoid or minimize any potential losses, with an eye towards incremental growth year over year.” 

In fact, events needn’t be big to be successful. Smaller events can create intimacy and exclusivity in a way that that larger ones can’t, according to the report. 

The niche content site, The Information, organizes high-end events with VIP prices starting at US$1,500. Subscribers get on-stage acknowledgments, guest passes, and VIP lunches with influential people. 

Having a dedicated events team can do wonders. Kinross from AMP comments, “I can confirm that the single biggest factor in success is a dynamic, can-do team.” 

“Maximize the live event experience”

The report recommends publishers use technological tools to wring out maximum benefits from events. These include apps, venue wi-fi, recording equipment, e-tickets, data collection, social media and attendee feedback.

They can also consider offering live-streaming and post-event podcast and video options for those who can’t attend in person. 

Bauer Media’s Empire Awards which celebrates cinematic achievement is a premium event which average readers don’t attend in person. However, Bauer involves them by letting them cast their votes in open categories and follow the action on social media.

It’s critical to take the time to view the experience from the eyes of the customer, and think through every moment of their experience – from before they arrive at the event to after they leave. There are many touch points that can be leveraged to maximize the live event experience and create deep, long-lasting relationships with your guests. 

Natali Freeling, Director of Marketing at National Geographic

Looking ahead, publishers can also create further revenue streams by offering their event organization expertize to other companies. 

Bonnier and Hearst Live run events for other brands. “As events have now become an integrated part of marketing plans, we have diversified to also offer the creation of events on behalf of other brands,” says Heart Live’s Archbold.

“This allows them to use us as an event agency but also benefit from the access we have to unrivalled content, the positive premium audiences we can drive to their activation and the media amplification we can create around them, both for our own channels and theirs.” 

Download the full report from FIPP: Events in magazine media: How to convert them into a revenue source