There’s a lot of excitement among publishers large, and small, about the potential afforded by events. Billy Penn, an online offering based in Philadelphia, for example, has previously reported that events constituted 80% of its revenue.
Although time consuming, and requiring a skillset not necessarily found in many newsrooms, events typically offer a means to diversify beyond the paywall, ostensibly through ticket sales and sponsorship.
Image: Unheard LA event. Photo credit: Louis Felix. Via KPCC website.
Outlets like The Seattle Times (with Education Lab), and Californian public radio station KPCC (Unheard LA),have found events to be a great source for stories and fresh perspectives. At the same time, they’ve also reported that many attendees are not necessarily consumers of their core product.
Events therefore aren’t just a revenue source for the here and now, they can also be an avenue for attracting new audiences and subscribers.
Here’s some of the more common event formats publishers are experimenting with:
30 – Industry Conferences and One-Off Events
A number of larger publications host activities with a key focus on industry networking and knowledge. These events create content, offer chances to meet like-minded professionals, and, in turn, also generate revenue.
Earlier this month, Recode hosted an hour long conversation with “with three veteran political journalists from NBC News: Chuck Todd, Andrea Mitchell and Hallie Jackson.” Chaired by Kara Swisher, the event included (as part of the $30 ticket price) an hour long networking reception prior to the discussion.
Recode’s biggest event, their annual 3-day Code Conference, bills itself as “the world’s premier technology conference.” Featuring sit-downs with some of the biggest names in the Valley and the tech world, the event is super-exclusive. Not only do tickets cost several thousand dollars (based on the last time I asked,) attendance is also carefully controlled, as even having the opportunity to register for tickets is invite only.
31 – Live Shows / Recordings
Popular radio shows like This American Life and Radiolab have, at various points, undertaken live tours, playing at theatres across the States.
Meanwhile, Slate’s excellent Slow Burn podcast (Series 2, “your guide to everything you never knew about Bill Clinton, Monica Lewinsky, and the scandal that nearly ended a presidency”) has been out on the road, as has Pod Save America.
32 – Ideas Festivals
Nonetheless, plenty of other events with high profile and prominent speakers (including multiple activities happening concurrently at different locations in New York) did take place.
This included conversations with Jimmy Fallon, Hollywood stars like Jim Carreyand Maggie Gyllenhaal, author Zadie Smith, a preview screening of the feature documentary on Fox News chairman and C.E.O. Roger Ailes, and “A Masterclass in Fact Checking” with the New Yorker fact checkers Parker Henry, Sean Lavery, Fergus McIntosh, and Neima Jahromi.
Sponsors of the Festival included Hennessy, Land Rover and WordPress.
Smaller outlets, like The Texas Tribune, have also delivered large-scale events. Their three-day 2018 Festival featured over 300 speakers; including Nancy Pelosi, the U.S. House Democratic Leader, and John Kerry, the Former U.S. Secretary of State. The focus of the Festival is “examining politics and policy issues facing Texas and the United States.”