Friday, November 1, 2013


Media Outlets Embrace Conferences as Profits Rise was a business page story the NYT saw fit to print on Monday between a stories on the pending Twitter IPO and Gawker gossip regarding the sexual preferences of media personalities.

When you see a “GOLD DISCOVERED IN CALIFORNIA!” headline you can be sure somebody somewhere is going to make some money.  But being one of those somebodies doesn't mean just rushing in with a shovel.  Face-to-face will be fundamental forever.  Live events will be hot when our current tablets are dead museum pieces.  However, events are no easier as a business than other communication medium.

One has to take NYT stories like this one with a grain of salt, given the patterns of pillow talk and mutual grooming that influence the way the media cover stories about themselves.   But the reporter, Leslie Kaufman, cites some remarkable facts about consumer media branded events:

  • Atlantic Media now puts on over 200 events a year;  their leading brand, the Atlantic attributes 20% of its revenue to events
  • The NYT has expanded from one conference in 2011 to 16 this year
  • Fortune's event’s business is “growing at 60% annually
  • The non-profit Texas Tribune pulled in $800,000 through events in  2012 vs. “Corporate gifts” of $1 million 

Kaufman also notes that the Huffington Post is getting into the game and that so-called "digital-only" sites consider events to be “critical to their plans.”  The American Press Institute is “studying the profitability of the events business,” according to Kaufman.

Kaufman portrays the newspaper business as particularly hungry having seen advertising revenue drop 55% from 2016 to 2012.  She reports of gold in the conference hills.  Kaufman quotes Ned Desmond of TechCruch about a single large conference bringing in “eight figure” revenues, (translation: over 10 million dollars).

There is more than just money in conferences according to Kaufman.  She cites editorial and strategic marketing benefits such as attracting new segments of customers.

Conferences are now “another social platform with Twitter, Facebook and online video” writes Kaufman.  Suddenly journalists see being on stage as “live journalism.”

The power and profitability of events is not really news to those of us who have been mining the event vein for a while.  And there will always be a place for face-to-face.  But if everyone is rushing in, selling shovels may be a better business than digging for the gold.

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